Clinic Uses Telemedicine to Help Patients During Pandemic

By Megan Moss, Staff Writer
Yakima Valley Business Times
March 27 – April 10, 2020

In 2009, family practitioner Greg Swart and his wife, Janis, opened Yakima Avenue Medical Clinic. After graduating from Washington State University, Swart knew that a job in the corporate medicine field was not what he wanted, instead choosing to pursue what he considered a more personal approach.
“Greg wanted to help patients directly, rather than having to help them the way somebody else told him to,” Janis said. “That’s why we knew we wanted our own private practice.”

Greg has a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and is a graduate of WSU’s Nurse Practitioner program. After working at Yakima Avenue Medical Clinic for five years, he purchased Best Practices Medical Clinic, and he has been serving Yakima Valley patients there ever since. The Swarts have always taken great pride in Providing the best health care possible for their patients, and with the COVID-19 outbreak, that means they have to do things a little differently now.

“Our biggest transition has been doing telemedicine,” Greg said. “But it’s working well to maintain the health and safety of our patients.”

When patients arrive, they are met at the door and triaged depending on their symptoms. Patients are cared for utilizing telemedicine – remote care – techniques when it’s practical. Taking precautions such as these helps Best Practices prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the office.

“We want to be able to keep our healthy patients healthy, yet still see them for their regular needs,” Greg said. “Because there are patients that we can’t treat through telemedicine, like the ones we need to look in their throat or evaluate their abdomen.”

Best Practices also offers behavioral health services, and Greg said he’s grateful staff can use Skype for that. The clinic is seeing increased and heightened levels of depression and anxiety in their patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Also, we have a lot of patients that are just really afraid right now,” Janis said. “And being able to just talk with them on the telephone helps ease some of those fears.”

Outside of taking new precautions and keeping up with the health guidelines that change each day, another challenge the clinic is adapting to is seeing less patients. The office has seen about a 50 percent decrease in patients, as many are too afraid to leave their homes, Greg said.

And financially, that has bene an obstacle. Best Practices has been able to maintain a full staff – which includes Dr. Robert Fallstrom – with the exception of one lay-off, and the Swarts are thankful they’ve been able to keep most everybody working.

“It’s tough, but we will get through this,” Greg said. “We hope that this is soon behind us, and our office and community can flourish again.”

The Swarts said they couldn’t imagine going through this pandemic without their office manager, Rhonda Beecrost, who they added to their staff after Astria Health Regional closed. Beecrost is very knowledgeable and has managed to keep the office running smoothly through the pandemic, while educating patients. She managed many offices for Astria.

“Our patients’ safety and wellness are our first priority,” Beecrost said. “We encourage our patients to listen to the stay-home, stay-healthy order, wash their hands and call us with any questions or concerns regarding the virus.”

Best Practices is currently accepting new patients with commercial insurance. To learn more, call 509-426-2378.