For anyone suffering from respiratory illness, COVID-19 presents very real challenges, as well as risks. Now imagine that patient is a child. This is the reality the North Shore Pediatric Asthma Clinic faced as soon as the pandemic hit British Columbia.
With a usual slate of 10 to 15 families a week, the pediatric clinic meets with children and their families to conduct respirology assessments, answer questions and provide education to children with asthma. In order to continue providing care to this vulnerable population during the pandemic, the clinic began holding virtual appointments. The sessions, hosted via Zoom videoconferencing, allowed physicians and nurses to hear their concerns, gather information and support clients and their families through this difficult time.
“The virtual sessions have gone very well and have been a good way for us to continue to deliver care and information to our pediatric clients during this time," says Anne Trenaman, Patient Care Coordinator for the clinic. The virtual appointments not only allow parents and their children to remain at home, but also allow for physicians — working remotely — to connect with the nurses working out of the clinic at Lions Gate Hospital.
And while some staff were initially a little hesitant about moving to a virtual model, they quickly saw the benefits.
“COVID-19 placed us in a unique situation and rather than dwell on the challenges, the pediatric team banded together, flexibly adapted to the change, and embraced this new approach," say Arlene Singh, Clinical Planner for Virtual Health and Shilpi Shah, Project Manager for Virtual Health who supported the team on the North Shore. “Their teamwork and dedication to excellent patient care is commendable."
While some physical examination aren't possible virtually, the use of Zoom in the pediatric clinic has been a good stop gap to ensure that patients and families are being supported during this time.
“The doctor can meet with the client and the family, gather information and answer any questions they might have," says Anne. “Then the nurse can provide any education needed to support the patient in their care," adding that the team has also been able to provide important information related to COVID-19, in addition to answering respiratory-related questions.
“Being able to do all this in real time has been really great and the families are very thankful that despite what's going on in the world, someone is there to listen to them."
The clinic hopes to maintain some aspect of virtual health as services begin to ramp up — providing families with the option to attend clinics virtually, when appropriate.
“We see a wide range of patients from Whistler, Pemberton and the Sunshine Coast — it can be a big trip for them. If the child is stable, we can offer a lot virtually, which is much easier for everyone involved."