Fighting COVID-19 from 6,000 Miles Away

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patient talks to doctor through telehealth advances; Fighting COVID-19 from 6,000 Miles Away

The COVID-19 pandemic was intensifying, and Dr. Ola Khraiwesh couldn’t do anything to help. She was visiting family in Jordan, over 6,000 miles away, when travel restrictions were put in place, and she learned she couldn’t return to the U.S.

“I had very mixed feelings. I have extended family in Jordan, so I got to spend some extra time with my parents and sibling,” Dr. Khraiwesh says. “On the other hand, I missed home so much. I missed work and friends. I felt sad and guilty initially I was not able to join my fellow physicians and health care co-workers in fighting the pandemic.”

Her team back at UnityPoint Health – Trinity in the Quad Cities came to her rescue. They quickly got Dr. Khraiwesh trained on the new telehealth system, so she could conduct virtual visits all the way from Jordan. 

“Being able to see patients, join meetings, help with improvement and planning – whether virtually or in person – is a joy,” Dr. Khraiwesh says.

The telehealth option allows Dr. Khraiwesh to see patients via a videoconferencing monitor on a cart that’s also equipped with a digital stethoscope and other diagnostic equipment. The technology feeds Dr. Khraiwesh the information she needs to assess patients, make medical record updates and request orders.

She made the transition to virtual visits without any major issues. 

“It’s been a new adventure and an experience that I like,” Dr. Khraiwesh says. “I very much enjoy meeting my patients and connecting with my co-workers through the technology.”

Dr. Khraiwesh believes her patients are responding positively to the new technology, too. 

“I feel they are smoothly accepting it,” she says. “It’s better than what I expected. Everyone is practicing social distancing, so more remote work and other changes during this time are expected.”

Bob Franck agrees. Frank was admitted to the hospital after a biopsy revealed he had cancer. He began chemotherapy treatment and checked into the hospital for a 10-day stay. When Frank found out he’d be meeting with his doctor over video camera and monitor, he admits, he felt a little intimidated. 

“I’m not a high technology type,” he says. “I thought the care would not be very personal, but I figured I’d see how it went. Just a minute into it, I felt more comfortable. I was impressed.”

In all, Bob had about five video visits with Dr. Khraiwesh while in the hospital. 

“The video is really great, and the audio is good too,” he says. “And, I was comfortable asking questions and answering questions through the video equipment.”

When Bob checked out of the hospital, he was feeling better, and his appetite was back after the initial negative side effects that often come from chemotherapy treatment.

As for Dr. Khraiwesh, she finally made it home after being in Jordan several extra weeks. She hopes to continue providing a mix of care in person and via video technology. After all, telehealth technology will continue to be part of our new normal as our communities learn how to safely live with COVID-19.

“Helping humanity and community is the heart of our mission and why I am proud of being a physician,” she says.