Telehealth connects a family during COVID-19 care


When Lana Vaniyev last saw her father, Suren Vaniyev, in UC Davis Medical Center’s emergency room, she thought he was dead. She was holding his hand when he collapsed and turned purple.

The next time she saw him was on a video screen, after more than 40 days of intensive treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome due to COVID-19 infection. Lana along with her three brothers, sister and mother all crowded together to see his recovery and share their relief that he would be okay. Smiles and tears filled faces on both screens. 

“It was hard to believe it was actually him,” Lana said. “He was thin and pale, but he was alive.” 

81-year-old Suren was the first patient to connect with family through the hospital’s new Virtual Visit Program. The retired journalist from Russia moved to the U.S. 11 years ago to be close to family who had already immigrated. 

Family is everything to Suren, according to Lana. Because hospital visits must be limited to control the spread of COVID-19, his substitute family became his MSICU physicians and nurses. "They are all phenomenal," Lana said.

But that isn’t enough, according to pulmonary and critical care medicine physician Jason Adams

“Even with a medical dream team, it can be tough to heal without family,” Adams said. “Their reassurance and encouragement make a huge difference.”

Adams is one of the clinicians treating Suren. He also is the health system’s director of Digital Health Innovation and part of a team of physicians, nurses and information technology specialists working to enable virtual visits throughout the hospital by mid-May.

Led by pediatrician Jennifer Rosenthal, the Virtual Visit Program puts UC Davis Health’s telehealth system to work for patients. The technology typically helps UC Davis specialists provide consultations to physicians at other Northern California hospitals. Now, it also connects patients with their loved ones and care teams. 

“If ever there was a perfect match for patient care and technology, this is it,” Rosenthal said.

More information about UC Davis Health, including its Center for Health and Technology, is at