Healthy Kids - Summer 2021

The Doctor Can See You Now B Y I A N A N D E R S O N


egan Lopez had already spent a month in the hospital prior to giving birth to her daughter Gracie, a micro-preemie weighing a mere one pound, six ounces. “She was 11 inches long, so not even the length of a ruler,” Megan recalls. “She’s

to rely solely on other family members during this time. Furthermore, the Lopez family lives in Murrieta. While Gracie’s primary care physician and a growing number of specialists operate out of the Murrieta Medical Plaza that Rady Children’s opened in 2018, many of the physicians the baby needed to see are at the main Rady Children’s campus, 60 miles away. However, in one huge way, the impact of COVID-19 actually reduced the amount of time Gracie and her mother had to spend in doctors’ offices. That’s because, to limit the spread of the virus, medical networks across the country began to embrace tele- medicine in a major way in 2020, and Rady Children’s was no different. Of Gracie’s 41 appointments in those first six months at home, only 28 of them required an in-person office visit. For the remaining 13, Gracie and her mother engaged with her doctors remotely, via video call. Dial C for Care The concept of telemedicine, or telehealth, has been around nearly as long as the telephone itself. The National Institutes of Health records early 20th century examples of doctors giving medical advice by radio to sailors at sea, or to patients in remote Alaskan SUMMER 2021 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE 23

a miracle.” That was only the beginning. The June baby would stay in the hospital another four months before her parents could take her home. The underdeveloped infant needed round-the-clock observation and a host of neonatal therapies to treat complications common among preterm newborns, such as issues with breathing, digestion and eyesight. Even upon release, Gracie would require regular checkups to monitor her growth, and consultations with more than a dozen different specialists to track her development. In just the first six months after going home, the tiny child would have no fewer than 41 different doctor appointments. Even under normal circumstances, all of this would have been taxing enough for the family. The fact that Gracie was born during the pandemic made everything more complicated. Every visit to a hospital or clinic felt fraught with risk. It became a greater challenge to find a babysitter for Gracie’s two older brothers, ages 4 and 6—particularly because the oldest has special needs of his own, and they had

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