Released: 4/14/2020 1:31:23 PM
Buffalo Business First
Fear of coronavirus is leading to new innovations in telehealth at Western New York hospitals.
Though people might be beginning to feel more and more like prisoners in their own homes during the coronavirus quarantine, they still might be leery of a best practice gleaned from the prison system.
Still, health-care leaders have quickly realized that the coronavirus mantra to just stay home could have a negative impact if people are too afraid to seek care when they really need it.
That’s led to a significant increase in telehealth capability in recent weeks, with a slew of new capabilities for everything from mental health services to primary care and even emergency services.
Kaleida Health this weekend launched a telehealth platform that provides remote video emergency room visits and consultations for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients across Western New York. The visit starts online, where patients register by answering a few questions, after which they’ll receive an appointment time via email or text with a link to a secure video conference call.
“For employees or the public in general, it may not be super easy to see someone right now,” said Dr. Joshua Lynch, Kaleida’s director of emergency medicine. “The last thing we want is someone staying at home scared to call the hospital."
"This is a way to see the same pool of emergency providers as if you came to the ED,” he said.
UBMD Emergency Medicine, which staffs Kaleida’s hospital emergency departments, have been using a similar system for more than a year for the state Department of Corrections, with providers consulting with patients to assess symptoms, provide recommendations and prescribe medications.
"We're trained to pick up on visual cues, so we really can do a fairly good physical exam without being in the same room as someone," he said.
Lynch stressed the service is not a replacement for someone having a stroke or a life-threatening condition.
“If you’re thinking of calling 911, you should not be getting on the video call. It’s not a substitute for calling an ambulance,” he said. “The ideal person is someone who says, ‘I’m not sure if I want to go to the hospital’.”
This week also saw Catholic Health begin piloting a new virtual health platform for its 10,000 full- and part-time workers, available with zero copays. Plans call for expanding the program to the broader community likely later this year.
The CH Care OnDemand virtual telehealth platform connects patients to a caregiver from Catholic Health, Catholic Medical Partners or another community caregiver in the First Choice network, its self-insured program through Independent Health.
If a provider does not answer within eight minutes, the call will be re-routed to a national provider from TeleDoc.
“It’s a free, virtual platform for all associates, where they can go on an app and in 7 minutes will have a physician or a mid level walk them through any care needs they have,” said Mark Sullivan, CEO.
The system connects associates via mobile devices, video or phone with a provider who can respond to health-care concerns and diagnose and prescribe medications for non-emergency conditions, such as a cold, sore throat, ear infection, bronchitis, pink-eye or heartburn.