Virtual resources, tablets and other technology help fight loneliness for communities in need

By Regence
July 29, 2020
virtual visit with a tablet

Regence supports community partners addressing a growing concern affecting vulnerable populations

The effects of prolonged self-isolation to help slow the spread of COVID-19 have been felt by many. This is especially true for those who are high risk of being impacted by the virus, including older adults, individuals with pre-existing conditions and those in long-term care. The COVID-19 pandemic magnifies the disparities that exist within our health and social care system, which disproportionately impacts underserved and marginalized communities

While physical distancing is a proven strategy to fight COVID-19 and save lives, it has also increased feelings of isolation and loneliness which, if left unchecked, can decrease quality of life and lead to even more pressing mental health concerns. In response, Regence partnered with local nonprofits and health care providers across its footprint to put technology solutions in the hands of those who most in need.

Read on to learn how a connection to technology can help improve overall health and well-being.

Increasing access to telehealth: King County Medical Society

For over 130 years, King County Medical Society in Washington has supported physicians in improving the quality of life for doctors and their patients.

With the rapid shift toward telehealth as a safe and effective solution for doctors to virtually treat patients, King County Medical Society put out a call for the funding of webcams, headsets and other technology necessary to implement telemedicine in hospitals and clinics throughout the King County region. Funding from Regence ensured King County-area doctors and care providers could continue to safely treat patients, including those most vulnerable. 

“As demand for virtual care increases, we must arm our health care system with reliable technology and secure infrastructure,” said Dr. Drew Oliveira, Senior Executive Medical Director at Regence. “Through this investment in King County Medical Society, we are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensuring patients have access to a safe and secure solution to connect with providers.” 

Increasing access to telehealth King County Medical Society
A donated webcam in use at a King County-area physician’s office

Connecting refugee families to technology: International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a national organization that helps people whose lives have been affected by international conflict and disaster to survive, recover and rebuild their lives in America. Understanding the value technology plays in keeping families connected, particularly those who have been displaced, the IRC in Salt Lake City jumped into action, forming a program that puts laptops, internet coverage and virtual support in the hands of refugee and immigrant families resettling in Salt Lake City.

In support of this cause, Regence funded technology resources for 25 newly resettled households, helping families and their IRC case managers stay connected and informed during COVID-19.

“With the conclusion of the school year, many families were no longer offered support or access to a laptop and internet access,” said Natalie El-Deiry, executive director at the IRC in Salt Lake City. “But with the support of organizations like Regence, we will be able to supply these families with technology resources that they can keep and work with the families to budget and ensure they can continue to access support.”  

Virtual music lessons bring joy to kids in treatment: MyMusicRx®

The Children’s Cancer Association’s MyMusicRx® program provides virtual music “medicine” for kids and families through digital and social engagement. During a one-on-one session with a MyMusicRx specialist, children undergoing treatment or in recovery can enjoy a music session that inspires hope, healing and connection.

Last year, MyMusicRx served nearly 9,000 individual kids and teens. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the program turned virtual, serving kids like Jared, pictured below, who has been undergoing therapy for cerebral palsy since he was 10-months old.

Jared has virtually “jammed” with his MyMusicRx specialist Cameron several times since he was released from Randall Children’s Hospital in March. “Jared loved every minute of it,” said Jared’s mother Heather about her son’s experience with MyMusicRx. “We want to thank Cameron for his awesome personality and compassion. Thank you so very much for making my boy laugh and being his friend!”

Virtual music lessons bring joy to kids in treatment MyMusicRx

Regence proudly help fund MyMusicRx’s ongoing work to bring joy to kids who are going through a particularly difficult time.

In addition to offering virtual one-on-one music sessions, MyMusicRx also offers Facebook Live sessions every Tuesday and Thursday, for kids, families and healthcare workers and even fulfills song requests, provided through a video recording.

Creating connection points for seniors and caregivers: Idaho Commission on Aging

Through a network of participating organizations, the Idaho Commission on Aging (ICOA) and local Area Agencies on Aging provide home and community-based services for older adults and their caregivers.

Supported by Regence, these organizations connect individuals in assisted-living facilities to loved ones and allow caregivers virtual access to services while reducing their exposure to COVID-19.

Participating organizations include Community Action Partnership, who will provide tablets to assisted-living facilities residents in North Central Idaho, reducing social isolation and loneliness while the facilities are on lockdown. Additional tablets provided by the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments will serve facilities in Southeast Idaho.

“The challenges that have presented themselves with COVID-19 have required many of the facilities to close their doors to outside visitors, making the need to identify creative ways to connect even greater,” said Director of the Area Agency on Aging and Community-based Programs Kristin Schmidt. “Once the devices are in their new “homes,” the potential impact of this grant could benefit as many as 1,400 residents and their loved ones!”

Additionally, the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments will deploy tablets and internet access to caregivers living in rural areas, allowing virtual access to the organization’s Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes and an opportunity to connect with other caregivers through virtual support groups.

“With the ability to participate in these classes virtually, rural caregivers will not have to worry about leaving their care recipient alone for an extended period of time,” said Mike Hirschi, director at the Southeast Idaho Council on Governments. “Additionally, this technology will allow 96 opportunities for caregivers in rural areas to interface with other caregivers to foster connection and combat feelings of isolation.”

Learn more about what Regence is doing to support our members, providers and communities.