Nephrologists Rapidly Pivot to Telemedicine to Support Patients During Pandemic

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Nephrology News

When the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, all nonurgent outpatient nephrology visits at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) were postponed due to physical distancing measures adopted in the region. Fortunately, the Division of Nephrology quickly mobilized to convert outpatient care from in-person to telemedicine visits to meet patient’s needs.

Telemedicine hadn’t been used by the division prior to the pandemic. In the course of a week, the division converted outpatient clinical care from in-person to remote audio-video telemedicine visits.

The telemedicine visits take place through MyCHOP, the hospital’s secure online portal where patient families have access to their child’s medical records and health information and can communicate with their care team. Dedicated telephone visits were offered to existing patients who lacked access to a smartphone or computer application.

The transition to telehealth for the Nephrology team had its bumps but was overall seamless and very successful, offering an effective way of delivering care during these unprecedented circumstances. Telemedicine proved to be safe, timely, patient-centered and efficient, and both patients and clinicians found it to be effective.

Telemedicine brings the Nephrology team’s expertise right to a patient family’s home. The ability to check in with their clinical team in real time from the comfort of home allows patient families to avoid unnecessary exposure to COVID, while still being able to access the team’s expertise.

It offers additional benefits for underserved patients whose caregivers cannot afford to miss work or travel to the clinic for in-person appointments, those who live far from the hospital, or those who have complex transportation needs. The division sees patients who may travel from as far as North Carolina and Florida.

The clinical team quickly adapted in order to provide the best patient care under these circumstances,” says Jamie Hoffman, Administrative Director for the Division of Nephrology. “It is also a testament to our excellent relationship with our patients and caregivers. Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to make this transition come together as quickly as it did.

In June, the division reintroduced in-person outpatient visits, converting approximately 30% of visits to in person; by August, in-person comprised 50% of outpatient appointments.

Going forward, telemedicine may have a sustained role in the division, even after the pandemic subsides. As this has shown, visits especially in areas of peritoneal dialysis and transplant care are very well suited for telehealth.

“Hopefully, telemedicine is further recognized as a key component to patient’s plan of care for the future, because it really works well for certain diagnosis,” says Hoffman. “Telemedicine gives us the ability to serve patients in a way we weren’t able to before.”

Contributed by Jamie Hoffman, Administrative Director for the Division of Nephrology.

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