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We’re here to provide the care you need, when you need it most.

Healthcare looks different in many ways these days. Due to COVID-19, health providers have needed to make quick shifts in their care efforts, which includes connecting with their patients virtually — including those who are in recovery or undergoing addiction treatment. 

That’s why Tracy Rockefeller, CRNP and chief of advanced practice providers for Addiction Medicine at Geisinger, and her staff have been working tirelessly to make sure those who need addiction treatment get the care they need when they need it most.

Addiction treatment during COVID-19 — virtually

With four addiction treatment clinics in central and northeast Pennsylvania, both in-person and virtual appointments have continued for those receiving treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We see people weekly, bi-weekly or every three weeks, depending on where they are in recovery,” says Ms. Rockefeller. “But we’ve gone from seeing them every day in-house to almost entirely through telemedicine care.”

Telemedicine visits happen virtually, using a computer, smartphone or tablet. Initially, the transition to virtual care was a little challenging because our addiction medicine team works so closely with their patients. In-person, face-to-face care is an important part of a person’s recovery, but the team has found it translates just as well using telemedicine — whether through video or phone appointments.

“We’ve found ways to connect with our patients on a personal level, even though we’re not in-person with them,” explains Ms. Rockefeller. “Many of our providers have animals. When I started with telemedicine appointments, my dog sat with me during my calls — and my patients would sit with their dogs, too. It really helped strengthen our relationships.”

Easy and open communication between providers and patients has been key in adjusting to virtual care. “Our patients can feel the Geisinger difference. We’re trusting them to work with us through virtual appointments, and we’ve seen more patient returns and follow-ups these days than we did when we saw people in-person in our clinics.”

In-person appointments — Socially-distanced and safe

The transition to virtual appointments has been a full team effort, and one that has been working well for patients. Ms. Rockefeller says that word of mouth has led to an increase in people seeking the care they need during these difficult times. 

“We see every new patient in-person for their first few appointments. Our nurses are strategically planning each day, looking at schedules and coordinating appointments around each other,” she adds.

Other precautionary measures we’re taking for in-person visits include:

  • Having only one patient in the waiting room and clinic at a time.
  • 30 minutes in-between scheduled appointments for deep cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Screening and taking temperature checks of every person before they enter our facilities, including staff.
  • Requiring staff, patients and visitors to wear a mask at all times. Wearing a mask helps protect others around you — and yourself — from the coronavirus. All of our medical personnel are wearing masks and taking extra steps to protect our patients, communities and themselves. 

While in-person and video appointments are more common, Tracy and her team also offer telemedicine phone appointments to make sure that they are connecting with everyone in need. She and her team are also meeting with patients to offer them counseling, food and housing if they need extra support.

Initial consultation and assessment

“New patients come in to see a physician and learn about what we have to offer for drug and alcohol treatment, including learning about inpatient care at Geisinger Marworth,” says Ms. Rockefeller. 

Part of this initial, in-person care includes assessing a person’s overall health. This includes bloodwork that examines liver function and looks for any other illness, such as HIV or Hepatitis C, and may include follow-up visits and referrals for specialists, including psychiatric counseling.

These in-person visits are completely safe. In addition to regularly cleaning high-touch areas, waiting rooms and exam rooms, our doctors are wearing masks and providing them to patients when they arrive, if they aren’t already wearing their own. There are also hand sanitizer dispensers throughout our clinics. “We want to make sure anyone who needs us now is getting the same care they would have gotten before the pandemic.” 

New patients will transition to telemedicine appointments after two to three in-person visits. Then, they can schedule weekly telemedicine visits as needed. “We have a great team — and we see our patients as an extension of our families. We reach back out to a lot of people after they are discharged from our care to see how they’re doing. They meant a lot to us.”

Advice for those struggling with addiction

Having been a nurse practitioner for more than 10 years, Ms. Rockefeller has worked with countless people who sought out addiction treatment. Her advice for those struggling right now is simple — just take the first step. 

“Reach out. Reach out to us, reach out to anybody. We’re here to help, and we’re going to do anything we can to help you now,” says Ms. Rockefeller.

With four clinics located in Williamsport, Bloomsburg, South Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, we have a center located near you. “All you need to do is make that first phone call,” adds Ms. Rockefeller. “We’re here with you — not just for you. We’re all a team in this.”

Next steps:

Signs your loved one may be suffering from addiction

Additional resources for addition:

Doctor and patient during telemedicine appointment.

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