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March 22, 2021 by PHN News Team
Primary Health Network (PHN) takes great pride in providing care to underserved communities, which includes unique populations such as the Amish. Amish communities follow a set of lifestyle guidelines that include forgoing the use of electricity and judicious use of technology. There are currently more than 250,000 Amish living in the United States, with the largest populations residing in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
PHN Community Health Worker Bonnie Dickson began forming a relationship with the Amish community nearly 20 years ago to ensure the Amish had access to affordable healthcare services, and she has built the foundation for PHN’s Community Health Worker team to continue her efforts. Through home visits and grassroots outreach, the Community Health Workers educate the Amish on the importance of preventive care for adults and children, as well as prenatal care for expecting mothers.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PHN quickly shifted its model of care to offer telehealth visits whenever possible. While telehealth and video visits were a sensible solution for many PHN patients, the Amish were initially unable to benefit from this service. The Amish do allow for certain uses of technology, but they do not own devices such as cell phones or laptops.
As a health center, a central focus of PHN’s mission is to find ways to make healthcare accessible to everyone, and we wanted to make sure one of our most vulnerable communities was not left behind during the pandemic. In August of 2020, the Community Health Worker team resumed Amish home visits and began using company-issued cell phones to connect with PHN family medicine provider Joan Humphrey, CRNP for telehealth appointments. Preventive measures are taken to ensure the safety of both the patient and the Community Health Workers.
Since August, close to 75 Amish telehealth visits have been completed. The Amish prefer not to be photographed or shown on video, so the appointments are often audio only. Humphrey also notes that appointments with Amish patients may take longer than a typical visit, as the Amish are a private and unrushed people. Humphrey takes extra time to build trust with the patients through communication, respect, and health education.
The pandemic has forced all types of organizations to find innovative ways to operate, and the healthcare field is no exception. Providing telehealth to the Amish is just one example of how PHN works to break down barriers to healthcare, and we will continue to do so to meet the unique needs of our patients.