03 Jun Rinehart Clinic Offers Parking Lot Appointments For Patients Without Technology for Video Visits
By Leigh Ann Hoffhines, Communications Manager, Rinehart Clinic
As the current public health emergency unfolded and it became clear that a different, safer, approach to care was needed, the Rinehart Clinic team worked quickly to implement telehealth options. Recognizing that a number of our patients do not have the necessary technology at their disposal for a video visit with their provider, we knew we had to find a way to serve them too.
The solution we came up with is the ability for patients to visit with their provider from our parking lot, using the clinic’s iPads and WiFi connection. The brainstorm for parking lot appointments followed one of the weekly OPCA COVID-19 check-ins in April, when Siskiyou Community Health Center mentioned their loaner iPads. Our Outreach & Enrollment Navigator, Angelica Godinez, proposed the idea for parking lot visits, noting that patients are used to coming to the clinic for their appointments anyway, plus if they needed any medications, they could take care of it at the same time with our pharmacy curbside pick-up option. (One-stop shopping without leaving their car.) And if during the appointment it becomes clear the patient needs to be seen in-person by their PCP, they are already at the clinic.
Using funding from the first stimulus package, we purchased the necessary equipment and started the ball rolling quickly. In early May, we did a test run with one primary care provider and two willing patients. Other PCPs started parking lot telehealth visits in the days following. We had six appointments that first week, and now parking lot visits comprise more than a third of our total telehealth visits.
Of course, a parking lot visit is not suitable for every type of appointment. Our Medical Assistants work closely with the patient’s PCP to determine whether a remote or in-person visit is appropriate.
Feedback we received from patients and the staff involved has helped fine-tune the process and workflow. Denise Weiss, Rinehart Clinic’s Quality Director, spearheaded the implementation and has worked closely with the Primary Care Providers, Clinic Manager, Medical Assistants, Front Desk Team, and the Outreach Team throughout. She notes that it has taken constant communication, and the support and flexibility of the entire care team, to make these visits successful and ensure our patients are able to get the care they need.
We have received plenty of positive feedback from patients on the parking lot visits. Of course, it is not the same as an in-person visit (one patient commented “It’s slick, but it’s not very personal”); however, we have heard from our patients that they are grateful for this option until they can safely see their provider again in person.