Summer Fall 2017

18 » A magazine for and about Oregon Community Hospitals. B ack in April, Good Shepherd Health Care Systems in the eastern Oregon town of Hermiston was all set and ready to launch a virtual care clinic as a way to make urgent and primary care available to more people. The health system, which has more than 500 employees, wasn’t expecting much of a turnout. Typically hospitals launch- ing such programs need a little time to start attracting patients But at Good Shepherd, the requests for virtual services came in on day one. “We had some visits on the first day, which is something that most hospitals that launch these programs don’t see,” said Jim Schlenker, chief operations officer for Good Shepherd. “It got more use than we thought and it has been getting more since then. Tome, that’s a sign that there’s obviously a need for another option.” Born in part from state funding secured by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, the Virtual Clinic Services program allows rural hospitals in Oregon to extend their primary care and urgent care offerings through a vir- tual service. Patients in need of non- emergency care—think cold and flu, allergies, back pain, rashes, and other ailments—can request a visit from their smart phone, computer or tablet, and in almost no time chat with an experienced board-certified physician or nurse practi- tioner. They may also schedule in a regu- alr phone call appointment. The provider can make a diagnosis, sug- gest a treatment plan and even request a prescription. And, if a more complex treatment plan is required, the provider can refer the patient for in-person care. Wrapping it up, patients receive visit summaries and their electronic medical records at the hospital are updated with the information. “It’s all about increasing access to care,” said Doug Romer, executive director of patient care services at Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande. The hospital was THE (VIRTUAL) DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW A new virtual clinic services program is extending care across rural Oregon By Jon Bell