NYC Health + Hospitals today announced that it has further expanded telemedicine services, ensuring patients have access to the care they need through various modalities, such as audio and video calls.
Since the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals has conducted more than 950,000 telemedicine visits across specialty areas.
To support this expansion, NYC Health + Hospitals has added over 900 video-enabled devices in its hospitals and skilled-nursing facilitates to make possible virtual patient appointments while also diversifying options for video-enabled visits for patients and providers.
Other telemedicine expansions at NYC Health + Hospitals include broader access to teleretinal screenings, the expansion of eConsult, and an increase in patient portal accounts activated, which further enable patients to seamlessly communicate with their providers on health status, medications, and much more.
While all care sites are adhering to enhanced protocols to ensure safe in-person visits, patients now have more options to receive care where they might feel most comfortable – at home.
NYC Health + Hospitals urges all New Yorkers to avoid delaying care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a primary care physician, the COVID-19 pandemic only more clearly emphasized how critical ongoing, preventative health care is to maintain access to for everyone regardless of ability to afford care, race, immigration status, and other qualifiers, including being able to safely reach your provider,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for Ambulatory Care Dr. Ted Long, MHS. “By leveraging technologies, the City’s public health system has been able to extend its commitment to the health and wellness of all New Yorkers where they feel safest at. We look forward to continue to expand these telemedicine services well beyond this pandemic.”
“One of the silver linings to this pandemic has been the growth of telemedicine and improvements to our processes and technology to ensure that our patients receive safe and high-quality care regardless of where they are. We are incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish in March and April when we had to be creative and flexible in our approach, and are now focused on how we can improve and grow this important health access modality,” said Hannah Jackson, MD, MPH Assistant Vice President in the Office of Ambulatory Care.
Below are details and milestones that help capture NYC Health + Hospitals’ expansion of telemedicine services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Electronic Specialty Referrals: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated NYC Health + Hospitals’ plans of expanding eConsult, a referral management system that allows for a timely electronic review of specialty referrals and enables specialists to provide clinical guidance to referring providers, reducing the need for a “face-to-face” visit, when appropriate. To date, the City’s public health system has expanded e-Consult services to an additional 116 new departments and specialties, including 47 new pediatric departments. Providers can now refer patients and receive a timely response across a total of 281 care areas. Since March 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals providers have done over 170,000 referrals via eConsult, with the average number of days for specialists to review and triage referrals being 3.5 days.
- Teleretinal Screenings: This past year, NYC Health + Hospitals expanded access to teleretinal screenings to a total of 12 sites. Teleretinal screenings help identify diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the eyes, that if left untreated can result in loss of vision. Patients have their eye images taken during a regular primary care appointment and the images are then reviewed by an eye specialist for signs of diabetic retinopathy. This screening eliminates an additional in-person appointment in the eye clinic for patients, while also ensuring faster and more equitable access to necessary eye care. Thirty percent of all patients that have received the teleretinal screening at NYC Health + Hospitals have showed evidence of diabetic retinopathy and were referred into the eye clinic for follow-up and treatment.
- Virtual ExpressCare: NYC Health + Hospitals has completed approximately 4,300 Virtual ExpressCare visits since launching the offering. This total includes over 1,000 saved ambulance trips for low-acuity 911-callers who were safely redirected to home-based virtual care with an emergency medicine physician. New Yorkers in need of urgent care for non-life-threatening health issues can connect to a NYC Health + Hospitals emergency medicine provider for an evaluation within minutes. To access the service, patients can go to expresscare.nyc from any web browser on their computer, phone, or tablet device with a camera.
- Behavioral Health: NYC Health + Hospitals quickly scaled up telemedicine behavioral health services in March and April of 2020 to ensure the system was leaving every door open for New Yorkers to seek critical care. This included getting 22 iPads distributed across facilities to provide in-patient and emergency department behavioral health consults. Since March 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals has completed over 189,000 tele-mental health visits, with nearly 33,000 substance use disorder treatment visits, also over audio or video calls. During the first COVID-19 surge, the odds of completing a telepsychiatry visit at NYC Health + Hospitals was 6.6 times more likely than completing an in-person visit for mental health services.
- Patient Portal: Patients have been encouraged to utilize MyChart, the system’s electronic patient portal. Through MyChart, patients can communicate with their care team, ask questions, view their test results and medical record, as well as attend video visits with their providers. MyChart also allows patients to prepare for their appointments online. A few days before their appointment, patients can update their contact information, insurance, preferred pharmacy, and other clinical information. Currently, approximately 55 percent of existing NYC Health + Hospitals’ patients have activated their MyChart accounts, up from just 14 percent of patients at the end of March 2020.
“Patients need prompt care and telemedicine helps to provide that safely during the pandemic,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried. “Expanding remote services will connect more patients with the services they need. I commend NYC Health + Hospitals for its wide range of accessible, timely telemedicine services.
In November 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals announced strategies the health system had implemented to help patients with chronic diseases better self-manage their conditions, from distributing at-home blood pressure machines, to expanding diabetes peer mentoring, and transitioning group exercise classes online.
Of the total 950,000 telemedicine visits conducted since the pandemic’s start, approximately 390,000 (40 percent) of these visits were for primary care services, with the remainder being split between behavioral health and specialty care services.
October and November 2020 saw 20 percent and 36 percent growth, respectively, of telemedicine visits system-wide.
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs.
A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals.
Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible.
For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org