CHOC telehealth visits continue at a rapid pace

As the world surpasses the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting rapid rise of telehealth continues to propel forward in 2021, with CHOC patients consistently reporting a 90-plus percent satisfaction rate in surveys, hospital officials say.

Virtual visits with a CHOC provider via a smart phone, tablet, or computer not only are here to stay, but are expected to continue growing at a rapid pace – not just in Orange and surrounding counties, but nationally and globally.

The rapid growth and acceptance of telehealth is a definite sign that consumers want easier access, convenience, and comfort as they seek medical care,” says Dr. Michael Weiss, vice president of population health. “CHOC is committed to providing the highest quality and service to fulfill these needs.”

Kathleen Lear’s son, Matthew, 18, was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy when he was 6 and the last 12 years have been a non-stop roller-coaster, she says.

In mid-February 2021, Matthew became the first epilepsy patient at CHOC to undergo a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), in which electrodes were placed in his brain to help reduce his seizures by sending electrical currents to jam his malfunctioning brain signals. In another first, CHOC recently conducted DBS on a patient with the movement order dystonia.

Kathleen and Matthew recently have had neurology and hematology telehealth visits with Dr. Joffre Olaya and Dr. Mary Zupanc, as well as a consultation with Dr. Antonio Arrieta and Dr. Loan Hsieh.

“I think it was amazing that we even could have a virtual neurology visit,” Kathleen says. “The doctors were able to assess a lot by watching Matthew walk and run and touch his finger to his nose.”

Kathleen says the telehealth session was especially helpful because her husband is working from home during the pandemic and he, too, could participate.

“It was really nice,” she says.

Growth projections

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global telehealth market size was valued at $61.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $559.52 billion by 2027, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.5 percent during the forecast period.

The U.S. telehealth market size was valued at $9.5 billion in 2020, up a whopping 80 percent over 2019, and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 29 percent between 2020 and 2025, according to market research firm Arizton.

Quick pivot

At CHOC, a lot of teamwork was necessary for the quick pivot that began in the early days of the pandemic, says Lisa Stofko, CHOC’s telehealth manager.

“There is a difference between a two-way video and telehealth,” Lisa says. “We are committed to making telehealth a seamless experience for both patients and providers, and ensuring that it replicates the safe, quality care patients are used to receiving in person.”

The information services department, Lisa says, worked feverishly to get technology set up so clinicians could use video conference software that came with extra layers of protection that allowed them to safely consult with patients virtually.

Training videos were delivered to more than 700 providers so they could replicate the in-person visit as closely as possible, Lisa says. And a 20-member steering committee was established from key stakeholders from across CHOC’s health system — including administrative executives and physicians — to further improve the telehealth experience and capabilities at CHOC.

In December 2020, Dr. Robert Hillyard, CHOC neonatologist, and Dr. Kenneth Grant, CHOC pediatric gastroenterologist, began serving as co-medical directors of CHOC’s telehealth program, while each retaining existing clinical responsibilities.

Some statistics

Dr. Weiss tracks telehealth visits daily.

From March 2020 through April 2020, CHOC telehealth visits zoomed to 14,457, from 2,233 prior to the pandemic, he says.

Since the pandemic began through early February 2021, CHOC telehealth visits totaled 95,757. The average number of telehealth visits per month during COVID-19 have remained in the 8,500 range.

Telehealth visits at CHOC have grown dramatically in both primary and specialty care.

In January 2021, the most visits (370) in CHOC’s Primary Care network were recorded at Orange Primary Care, followed by Pediatric and Adult Medicine (338), Clinica Para Ninos (286), Breathmobile (176), Los Alamitos Pediatrics (149) and Boys and Girls Clinic Santa Ana (92).

In January 2021, the most visits (1,498) in CHOC’s Specialty Care network were recorded at Providence Speech and Hearing Center, followed by endocrinology (1,017), mental health (991), gastroenterology (893), neurology (481), pulmonary (450), the Thompson Autism Center (407), and outpatient rehabilitation (301).

Kathleen says she looks forward to continuing Matthew’s treatment at CHOC – in person when possible, and virtually, too. She finds telehealth visits especially useful when doctors want to go over test results.

“There’s definitely a time and a place for it,” Kathleen says. “And I just feel so privileged to have CHOC so close to us.”

Learn more about telehealth at CHOC

What Providers Need to Know about CHOC’s IBD Program

When a child or teen is diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the entire family is affected.  Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease often require ongoing medical management throughout their lifetimes.  CHOC’s IBD Program was recently established to provide these patients with access to pediatric gastroenterology experts and other key subspecialists, advanced diagnostics and the latest evidence-based research to diagnose and create personalized treatment plans.  The program’s team works closely with patients’ primary care providers to ensure care coordination and open communications.

“Primary care providers play a major role in managing the care of patients with IBD.  They are our partners in helping us reach our ultimate goal: securing bright futures for our patients,” says Dr. Kenneth Grant, pediatric gastroenterologist at CHOC.  He provides the following program highlights:

Dr. Kenneth Grant leads the IBD program and serves as the Chair of Gastroenterology at CHOC

  • Board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists who work with the latest advancements in IBD research and are engaged in continuous quality improvement
  • A support team that includes a registered nurse, nutritionist, social worker, and behavioral health expert
  • Coordination with primary care providers, medical and surgical subspecialists, and adult IBD providers and programs
  • Membership in the ImproveCareNow (ICN) network, whose purpose is to transform care provided to children and adolescents with IBD. CHOC is the only Orange County hospital that participates in ICN.
  • Outpatient care provided at multiple locations: Orange, Mission Viejo, Corona, Newport Beach and Fountain Valley
  • Emergency office visits with IBD medical providers for established patients, with same day or next day appointments usually available
  • IBD Parent Advisory Council whose members partner with providers to enhance the program
  • Outpatient infusion services
  • Ongoing research into the causes of IBD and development of better treatments

“Treating IBD in children and teens can be complex, requiring specialized expertise and a multidisciplinary approach to care.  We are proud to now offer additional support services to our IBD patients,” says Dr. Grant.

To speak with a CHOC gastroenterologist about the IBD program, call 714-509-4099.

Appointments can be made by calling 888-770-2462.

Pingmd, Secure Texting App: Q&A with Dr. Grant

CHOC has partnered with pingmd, a secure, HIPAA
compliant messaging app, which allows you to securely send text messages, videos and images to our specialists available within the network. We spoke with Dr. Kenneth Grant, pingmd physician champion and assistant division chief of gastroenterology/nutrition division at CHOC, to provide us with the latest on this new tool.

Dr. Kenneth Grant

Q: What are the main benefits of using pingmd?

A: Communication is much more efficient with this platform, and less likely to interfere with normal workflow. The triage of messages is also more efficient.

Q: What has your experience been so far with the new app?

A: Phenomenal. I can respond to a lot more requests in a more timely manner. I can use my smart phone, tablet or computer. The app has been working very consistently and speed has notably improved recently.

Q: Do community physicians have direct access to CHOC specialists with this tool?

A: Yes, once a community physician provides his/her email and practice affiliation to CHOC Business Development, the physician will then receive an invitation to pingmd. Once signed up, community physicians have access to the directory of CHOC specialists who are actively using pingmd. Messages are marked when sent and viewed. The app makes it clear when a user is offline. The CHOC specialists concierge is also available on pingmd, or by calling 714-509-4013.

Q: Is there a cost to sign up?

A: There is no cost for CHOC physicians or community physicians.

Q: Who should physicians contact to learn more or to sign up?

A: Please contact CHOC Business Development at 714-509-4329, or, provide your email, address and practice info to lcastelo@choc.org.