Summer Fall 2017

19 Summer/Fall 2017 one of four, along with Good Shepherd, St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, to have launched a VSC program. The program at all four rural Oregon hospitals involves vendor partner Carena, which has been designing and operating vir- tual clinics for health systems and offering on-demand care since 2000. Today, the company partners with more than 120 hospitals, offering virtual care access to some 18million people through its network of providers. At Good Shepherd, hospital executives first started talking about the idea of VCS last year, in part because of a limited supply of doctors and other practitioners in the area. “It’s just tough to get doctors out here, and we have a scar- city of family practices as well,” Schlenker said. “We saw this as one way to contribute to family practice care, with the longer-term goal of trying to bring in some added practitioners.” In the first three months of launching its virtual clinic, Good Shepherd saw about 80 patients through the service. Schlenker said they’d like to push that up to about 50 per month, but says the hospital had been pleased with how it had been going so far. “We are seeing what we expected and hoped for, which is really a focus on local patients,” he said, adding, however, that sev- eral patients from outside the area—including two from Port- land—had used the virtual service. Those who use the VCS at Good Shepherd pay a flat $35 fee for the service. Looking at weekly reports provided by Carena, Schlenker said patients used the service for everything from bronchitis and sore throats to conjunctivitis and open wounds. As in Hermiston, there is a shortage of providers in Astoria, the riverside town that sits where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Katrina McPherson, MD, vice president of operations for the Medical Group at Columbia Memorial Hos- pital, said it was primarily that reality that prompted CMH to go virtual. “Virtual care provides an additional avenue to make sure patients can get the care they need in a timely and efficient manner without sacrificing quality,” she said, noting that the hospital has been using telemedicine for pediatric and stroke patients, but that this was the first virtual service being offered. There were other appeals to trying out a virtual clinic, as well. McPherson said many members of the community have high continues 