When the pandemic hit, onsite visits temporarily dropped to zero, except for dental emergencies and a handful of other services that could only happen in person. We developed safety protocols to protect our staff, volunteers, and patients while transitioning to virtual appointments for most of our care. Despite the challenges, we have provided nearly 3,000 virtual visits to date and see enormous on-going potential of telehealth for our patients and volunteers—even beyond the pandemic.
To supplement our telehealth care, we started giving some of our providers the option to see patients onsite again last fall during small, carefully coordinated clinic sessions. Patients began coming back in for pulmonology, dermatology, and rheumatology visits—as well as preventive screenings like pap smears. All the while, we have continued to expand the number of volunteers trained to provide care via telehealth and enhance patients’ ability to effectively utilize virtual care through education and technology access.
Thanks to the vaccine, AFC is looking forward to its transition to a post-COVID-19 world, but instead of simply returning to our pre-COVID model, we anticipate that our “new normal” will integrate fresh practices and lessons learned from the pandemic along with many of the tried-and-true methods that have served us so well for 27 years.
There will be numerous factors to consider, such as: Which conditions and patients are best suited for onsite care? How quickly do we increase the number of patients without sacrificing quality? How do we support technology use by our patients in ways that improve their health and minimize time away from their jobs and families? How do we safely maximize the use of our dental clinic?
We’re planning for an integrated virtual and onsite model that will thrive post-COVID. Establishing telehealth as an on-going care-delivery platform will allow us to expand capacity and better retain and recruit volunteers. An integrated model, able to nimbly shift between telehealth and in-person care in response to the virus’ presence in our community, will be key to a post-COVID-19 AFC.
Read our entire 2021 Spring Newsletter
Coming to the Table: Addressing Food Insecurity During the Pandemic
AFC’s Vaccine Clinics
Patient Story: Maria
Letter from the President: Arlington Free Clinic’s Role in Ensuring Vaccine Equity
Recognizing Jim Cole, President & CEO of Virginia Hospital Center, Friend of AFC
COVID-19: Year in Review
Spring 2021 Updates