Cherokee Nation Health Services mixes virtual, in-person visits
TAHLEQUAH – Like other health care systems, the Cherokee Nation’s has reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual patient visits, a practice that health officials say will continue.
Speaking to Tribal Councilors on Aug. 27 during a Health Committee meeting, Health Services Executive Director Dr. Stephen Jones said telemedicine would play a part moving forward.
“We’re working every day to transition into our new health care model, which will be a combination of telemed and face-to-face visits,” he said. “We’re looking for opportunities that would be the best for our patients.”
Connecting with patients remotely can have its own complications, Jones added.
“What we’re finding is there’s some big challenges out there with accessibility through either broadband … or whatever it is that patient has,” he said. “So, we’re always looking at different platforms that we can utilize to make that easier for our patients. That’s an ongoing process.”
As the pandemic persists, health employees remain busy with COVID-19 contract tracing and case monitoring, Jones said.
“Those numbers have gone up recently, and we are continuing to put resources toward that to help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Health Services reported 1,315 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Aug. 27. Children ages 0-4 represented 2.2%, or 29 cases. There were 140 cases – nearly 11% – in the 5-17 age bracket, according to the tribe.
As of Aug. 27 in the United States, more than 5.8 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, along with nearly 180,000 deaths. As of Aug. 27 in Oklahoma, there were 55,550 confirmed positive cases. The latest death toll was 778, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Jones said that after an investment in specialized dental equipment that filters aerosols, those services have returned to 75% capacity.
“We anticipate by Oct. 1 we’ll be back up to 100%,” he added.
The 122 aerosol units cost $1,500 each, Jones said.
“Those units were pretty expensive. We used some of our CARES Act money to purchase those,” he said.