As told by Dr. Matt Dumas, Lead Physician, Lakelands FHT*
In late March, Lakelands FHT discovered that there was a positive case at our Northbrook site. That resulted in the immediate closure of our building. We all had to go home and finish 14 day periods of self-isolation. To our surprise, this meant having to distance ourselves from our own families, which was very difficult.
The day that we realized we would have to close our building, we decided to build a clinic without walls. We accomplished this by creating an email account for patients to contact us and posted this on our website and Facebook pages. Our 3 physicians and 2 NPs were able to remotely access the PSS EMR and fax prescriptions from our own homes. Our super RN/IT expert also had remote access and provided critical support. We were able to create schedules for ourselves and call patients from our homes by turning off the Caller ID's on our phones. Our Mental Health Social Worker was able to call the patients in her schedule as well.
The Lead Physician monitored the email daily and transferred the emails to the appropriate provider for action. Once the emails were completed, they were moved to a separate folder and our RN copy/pasted the emails into the patient's chart before deleting them from the email entirely, limiting the amount of time that personal information was kept in cyberspace. With this system, we were able to respond to over 20 patient emails per day, as well as call the patients that were scheduled previously. This made for busy days, and it was a relief to sign out of the email every day at 4:30!
We were discouraged that we couldn't answer the phones at our clinic while we were shutdown, but we were able to respond to patient requests in ways that we had not done before: by answering emails to patients or calling them directly from our homes. This was an evolution from the days of paper charting.
We also created call lists of all of our patients who are above the age of 70 and had our NPs call them to ask how they were doing, find out if they had any needs, and to remind them of the importance of physical distancing, which the vast majority of our patients were already following.
With the advice of KFLA Public Health we have reopened the clinic. We have separated our staff at the Denbigh and Northbrook sites so that if there is another shutdown, the phone can be forwarded to the site that is still open, and the providers can work from home as before.
*In the first version of this post, Janice Powell, Executive Director, was listed as the source. It has now been updated to reflect Dr. Matt Dumas's contribution.