When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, Kaiser Permanente Northern California effectively responded to the challenge of providing quality care to its members while supporting efforts to combat the spread of the virus through video visits and other types of telehealth appointments.
By July, Kaiser Permanente Northern California had completed 10 times more video visits than in all of 2019 and was averaging more than 20,000 video visits every weekday. Telehealth, which includes the use of traditional phone and other virtual technologies to deliver health care, accounted for more than 80% of ambulatory care visits in March.
Although recently there has been an uptick of in-person care, as more services resume safely in Kaiser Permanente facilities, telehealth visits will continue to play a critical role in care delivery. And a significant reason for that? Patients appreciate its convenience and quality.
Hear from members throughout the region about why these options are valuable to them.
Elizabeth Chiment, 64, San Leandro
Chiment admits she was skeptical of video care. “I’m very much a people person.” During the pandemic, Chiment’s Kaiser Permanente Oakland physician scheduled a video check-up with her as she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
“As soon as I saw my doctor’s face and heard his voice, it was wonderful,” she said. “He was able to see where I lived and my dog, getting a better sense of who I am.”
Chiment has also participated in group online therapy through Kaiser Permanente, which she called a “salvation.” In March, over 90% of Kaiser Permanente Northern California mental health visits occurred virtually.
Ginny Taylor, 83, Roseville
The first video appointment Taylor has had in her 17 years as a Kaiser Permanente member was to discuss the postponement of her colostomy reversal surgery. Due to her being at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 she was advised to stay out of the hospital.
“It was so simple and worked perfectly,” the retired human resources professional said. “I got an email with an invite, and that was it. It was so nice being able to see the expressions of my doctor’s face right from my laptop.”
Saving time not driving and parking at her facility was also an aspect Taylor enjoyed. Throughout the pandemic, Taylor’s physicians have monitored her, staying current on her condition. She has a telephone appointment this month to discuss rescheduling her surgery.
Henry Chow, 72, Brentwood
Chow, a retired commercial banker, has had 2 recent video visits, one for his annual physical where his doctor reviewed his health history, discussed his physical activity, and ordered lab work during the appointment. Chow was able to securely email in a blood pressure reading and underwent a blood test at Kaiser Permanente Antioch.
“It was easy and convenient,” he said of the video visit. “Not having to mask up and make sure you are socially distancing is a big plus with virtual care.”
Chow also mentioned that he felt a strong personal connection to his physician despite not being in the same room.
Krista Rosa, 46, Redwood City
A mother of 2 and cancer survivor, Rosa said her telehealth visit with her oncologist was, “The best doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had without being in front of someone. My care translated well over the phone and my doctor was able to get an understanding of my emotional and physical wellbeing.”
Currently working and teaching her children from home, Rosa said telehealth also offered convenience. In a separate 15-minute video call, Rosa was prescribed medication for strep throat; a visit that normally would have taken significantly more effort on her part.
Though she said she will still travel for in-person visits for certain types of care, Rosa is grateful to be offered options to receive quality care while staying safe at home.