Stanford Children’s Health Doctor Has Over 1000 Telehealth Visits

It’s not always easy to get to the doctor’s office when your child has an illness or injury. Especially now, when we are facing the potential of spreading infectious diseases. Many pediatric practices have started offering virtual visits with doctors that can be done over the internet. At the forefront of these technological advancements is William Kennedy, MD, a pediatric urologist with Stanford Children’s Health who recently had his 1,000th telehealth visit.

Telehealth visits allow doctors and patients to meet virtually over a secure connection using smartphones, home computers or nearby medical offices. Dr. Kennedy started offering telehealth visits in 2013 and over the years has evolved from taking simple cases to doing complex diagnostic work.

“At the start, we were a little bit restrictive thinking we'd only see a subset of patients that we knew could be easily done through telehealth. As we started to get more comfortable with the digital equipment and our expertise improved, we have expanded our practice so we will take anyone as a telehealth consult.  It's been a rare situation in which I couldn't make the diagnosis via telehealth and that we have to schedule an in-person visit,” Dr. Kennedy explained.

Switching to virtual visits allows physicians, particularly specialists like Dr. Kennedy, to hit a wider geography of patients and increase efficiency. It is now possible for doctors to see patients in a variety of locations all in the same day. This means Dr. Kennedy can attend to urgent cases when they arise, regardless of the patient’s location.

“I am physically located in our Stanford Children’s Health clinic in Sunnyvale when I do telehealth and I have nurse practitioners at our multi-specialty sites in San Francisco, Walnut Creek and Monterrey. In the past, I used to travel once a month to each of those locations and see in person five or six patients. Patients then needed to wait another month for me to circle back to see urology consults again. Now every week I'm in every location, so it becomes a much easier to access to me in a timely manner.” Dr. Kennedy said.

With a practice that covers most of Northern California, it can be hard for families to drive several hours each way for a 30-minute doctor’s visit. One benefit for families and patients is telehealth visits can greatly reduce or even get rid of the need to drive to the doctor’s office. Dr. Kennedy believes that the virtual visits can help reduce the stress involved in seeing the doctor and let parents focus on their child’s health.

“I think that when parents come to a visit free of the baggage of all the traffic and lengthy travels, as well as the anxiety that comes with taking care of kids in a car, they can purely concentrate on the medical reason for the visits,” he said. “Patients can be seen for specialty consultations in the comfort of their community or home, and have the same expertise in diagnosis, making it necessary to only come into the tertiary care medical center like Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford on the day that they need surgery.”

Although some patients might be hesitant at first, they soon discover the convenience that telehealth visits offer, without compromising quality of care. The father of one patient who recently had a post-operative telehealth follow-up with Dr. Kennedy said, “Your initial concern as a parent is, where's the doctor? Is he going to be able to see everything? Is he going to be able to, address everything? Are we going to be able to really get the attention that we would require? But it was amazing, we walked into the room, there was this huge TV, it was like he was sitting right there in front of us.”

Despite being miles apart, Dr. Kennedy and his nurse practitioner were able to diagnose and treat the patient. “Dr. Kennedy was able to narrow in on exactly what was going on. It was unbelievable how easy and seamless it was. He was down in Stanford and we were in Walnut Creek but he was really able to see everything. It was just so reassuring, I couldn't have been happier,” the father said.

The patient’s father was also glad that the telehealth visit cut down on the commute he and his family would have made for a traditional office visit, “If we're driving to the hospital, the commute is up to two hours, so I just got back four hours of my life and I think I got better care. It really made a difference because our time, that's a valuable commodity.”