Telemedicine Plays Key Role in Connecting with Patients During COVID-19 Crisis

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Urology Update

First introduced into CHOP Urology practices in May 2018, video visits were limited to postoperative visits and a small number of preoperative assessments. A total of 46 video visits were completed before the first reported cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania in early March.

Screen shot of video visit To maintain physical distancing protocols, all urology appointments that could be conducted via telemedicine were converted to video visits in mid-March. This led to a significant surge in our telehealth utilization. The team quickly responded to the crisis by working closely together to facilitate this transition: training was provided to all staff members — from the scheduling team to the advanced practice providers — and tip sheets were created and routinely updated to troubleshoot any issues.

A user guide was also given to families, which helped answer commonly asked questions and mitigated the learning curve so that the focus was on providing quality care for their child.

Due to these measures, we have been safely performing video visits remotely with both our providers and patients in the safety of their own homes, enabling us all to practice physical distancing without compromising patient care.

From the time COVID-19 restrictions were placed in mid-March to mid-April, the Division of Urology completed more than 700 video visits. There was an equal mix of new consultations, follow-up visits, and postsurgical evaluations, which were integral in maintaining continuity of care with our patients. A patient reported outcome survey yielded 176 responses with an overwhelming positive response. Some patient comments include:

  • “Nothing negative to say. Great experience. Saves me travel time. Wish all of my daughter's follow-up appointments were like this! Thank you!”
  • “Great during COVID.”
  • “Loved having a tele-visit for my son — it was efficient, effective, and easy. The doctor and nurse practitioner were prepared and thorough. It saved us three+ hours of travel time. I also believe that the office staff prior to the visits made sure that all paperwork, tests, and labs were ready to go for the visit — made it efficient”
  • “I realize this telehealth visit was due to COVID-19, but I would highly recommend this as an alternative option for certain visits once we are out of the pandemic”
  • “In the current pandemic, this allowed us to still get our newborn looked at without having to cancel the appointment.”

While the pandemic pushed us to explore alternative approaches to delivering patient care, our experience and patient feedback suggest that there is a role for telemedicine going forward. Identifying the diagnoses that lean themselves toward telemedicine and the ability to reach a broader range of patients will occur as a result of this experience.

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