London

London Children's Hospital offers drive-thru checkups for cystic fibrosis patients

The Children's Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre is introducing drive-up care for cystic fibrosis patients, offering routine swabs from the safety of their own vehicle.

Patients are required to visit the hospital for a throat swab once every three months

Jennifer Itterman, pediatric nurse case manager at Children's Hospital, leads a drive-up clinic for cystic fibrosis patients. It allows kids to have their routine throat swab without entering the hospital. (Submitted: London Health Sciences Centre )

The Children's Hospital at London Health Science's Centre is introducing drive-up care for cystic fibrosis patients, offering patients routine swabs from the safety of their own vehicle. 

Cystic fibrosis patients are required to visit the hospital for a throat swab once every three months to detect any bacterial growth in the lungs. 

For many patients and their families, visiting the hospital for these routine check-ups during the pandemic seemed daunting. 

"We were concerned that fear and anxiety of having to come to the hospital for a throat swab while the pandemic is still ongoing could mean that some families might opt to delay their appointments when their child appears to be healthy," said Children's Hospital's Paediatric Nurse Case Manager Jennifer Itterman, in a statement.

In an effort to put families at ease, Itterman and the rest of the cystic fibrosis clinic team created this new curbside model.  

"I was joking with the physician I work with, Dr. April Price, and I said, 'You know we should have the families just drive up and I'll gear up in my PPE and get it done. That way they're not in the hospital setting and it can be done safely outside."

She said Price later mentioned the idea to senior management and, before they knew it, the new program was up and running. 

Under the new process, clinic patients and their families will receive an email telling them where to park and the telephone number to call when they arrive. The appointments take about 10 minutes. 

Masks are required for everyone in the vehicle over the age of two and families are asked to limit the number of passengers in the vehicle to just the patient and their caregiver. 

Well-received by families

Itterman said the curbside program has been well received by families because they don't have to enter the hospital. 

Alysia Chappell and her 8-year-old daughter Kaylee tried out the new drive-thru testing site in July when it first opened. 

Alysia Chappell's 8-year-old daughter, Kaylee has cystic fibrosis. She says at first her daughter was nervous about the drive thru clinic. But after trying it out, Chappell says she felt more comfortable. Especially after the nurse gave her a popsicle. (Submitted: Alysia Chappell)

"It was actually a really easy, smooth process. It felt very safe and wasn't too complicated at all. We basically just had a specific time that we had to be there and they sent along some instructions with some diagrams."

Chappell, who is also president of the London Cystic Fibrosis Canada chapter, said she is glad the hospital was able to come up with this alternative way of testing, given the importance of routine check-ups.

"If you get a swab done before a child even begins to present the symptoms, sometimes they can catch some stuff and it might be growing in their lungs and then we can get early intervention."

She said at first her daughter was nervous as they both had been isolating at home since the pandemic started. 

But after trying it out, Chappell said she felt more comfortable. Especially after the nurse gave her a Popsicle. 

"She was like, 'Oh, this is so easy and I get my Popsicle'. She was really happy. From her perspective it worked out really nicely."

The cystic fibrosis clinic at Children's Hospital tracks about 80 patients a year. 

 

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