Seattle Indian Health Board launches over-the-phone healthcare services

Seattle Indian Heath Board's Dr. Socia Love-Thurman, Cherokee, Delaware, Yuchi, and Dr. Terry Maresca, Mohawk, discussing patient visit.(Photo: Photo courtesy of Seattle Indian Health Board)

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Priority is to keep patients safe following stay-at-home order

News Release

Seattle Indian Health Board

Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) began over-the-phone healthcare (telehealth services) for its patients today amid increasing community closures and Governor Inslee’s recent “stay-at-home” order.

Patients have access to all the same health professionals as they would if they were to visit the clinic in person. Patients can consult with licensed medical, behavioral health, and substance use disorder professionals via phone for assessments and appointments. If a provider feels that a patient needs to be seen in person, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled.  

Patients will also have access to Traditional Indian Medicine practitioners and case workers offering access to domestic violence and homelessness services and resources. 

Patients without phones or ability to have an appointment through Seattle Indian Health Board’s telehealth services will still be able to access clinical services in person. 

“The safety of our relatives is our number one priority, and we are doing everything we can to support the community by maintaining access to healthcare,” said Dr. Emily Ashbaugh, Chief Medical Officer of Seattle Indian Health Board. “Telehealth services allow our care teams to stay connected with our relatives and offer them the best possible care and support during this difficult time.” 

As part of the organization’s integration of Traditional Indian Medicine and Indigenous cultural practices, Seattle Indian Health Board refers to its patients as relatives. 

To ensure its staff’s safety, Seattle Indian Health Board instituted policy that allows staff who are considered part of the “high risk” population for complications due to COVID-19 to self-quarantine, which has led to operating with a smaller clinical staff. 

The organization is looking at options for the appropriate equipment to allow its clinical staff who are in self quarantine to conduct appointments with patients over the phone from their homes. 

“We will continue to adapt our telehealth services to build capacity and ensure relatives can reach their care teams regardless of anyone’s location,” Ashbaugh said. 

Because of its staffing constraints, Seattle Indian Health Board had to close its clinic on Saturdays indefinitely. It is looking at options to open back up on Saturdays for scheduled pediatric and prenatal appointments.     

Abiding by social distancing recommendations and guidelines from government agencies, Seattle Indian Health Board has suspended many of its ongoing program classes and services, including diabetes and AA support groups and Traditional Indian Medicine classes and gatherings. The agency has transformed many of these group settings into individual visits in order to continue to support the attendees. 

Seattle Indian Health Board has also had to suspend visits from its mobile dental van to Pioneer Square and Tukwila due to limitations of social distancing. 

“We strive to care for our patients holistically,” said Esther Lucero, CEO of Seattle Indian Health Board. “Nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction we have with our relatives, but we hope that telehealth services can mitigate some of the impacts for the time being.” 

About Seattle Indian Health Board's COVID-19 screening and testing process:  

Seattle Indian Health Board has been encouraging all its patients to call first to receive an over-the-phone screening before visiting its clinic to determine the need for an in-person visit and possible testing. Most people with mild to moderate symptoms are encouraged to stay home if they do not warrant hospitalization or do not meet criteria for testing, as advised by public health guidelines. Walk-in patients are screened outside the doors of Seattle Indian Health Board’s clinic. Any patients experiencing symptoms (cough, fever, or other respiratory problems) are instructed to enter through a designated entrance and are scheduled for an appointment with the respiratory provider to determine if testing is necessary and make a care plan.

Additional information about Seattle Indian Health Board’s COVID-19 efforts: https://www.sihb.org/2020/03/sihb-is-taking-steps-to-prevent-spread-of-coronavirus-covid-19/

Link to donate to Seattle Indian Health Board’s COVID-19 efforts: https://www.sihb.org/about/get-involved/donate-to-seattle-indian-health-board/

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(Image: Seattle Indian Health Board)
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