Our normal way of life has come to a crawl. Officials have called on more than 250 million Americans to stay at home to curtail the spread of COVID-19. But staying at home doesn’t necessarily mean that people should skip routine doctors’ appointments.
The concept of telemedicine—the practice of caring for patients remotely through phone conversations or real time streaming video applications, most commonly FaceTime—has been emerging in the healthcare industry. Dr. Collin Brathwaite, who specializes in general and bariatric surgery at NYU Langone Health, first became interested in the idea three years ago after learning about telemedicine at a healthcare industry conference. The service allows patients to connect with doctors from home, and also gives doctors the option to administer care from home or from the office.
“It allows doctors to have access from anywhere, especially at this point in time with limited travel and people being told to stay home,” Brathwaite said. “We have also de- veloped different schedules for staff as far as when they come into the hospital so that everyone is not there every day. This means doctors can see patients in the office or through virtual visits.”
NYU Langone Health, like many healthcare systems in the state and around the country, have been slow- ly laying the groundwork to make telemedicine a reality. One reason NYU Langone has been able to swiftly implement these changes to expand telemedicine is because the hospital system has been growing digital health care, spending tens of millions of dollars on its telemedi- cine platform prior to the outbreak. In light of COVID-19, NYU Langone Health accelerated its capabilities to become one of the largest integrated providers on the east coast to offer video visits to patients.
NYU Langone Health has seen an increase in patient visits to their telemedicine platforms over the last few weeks, and the volume of patient appointments via video visit is only predicted to increase in the coming weeks, as self-isolation continues. To meet the need, NYU Langone added 1,300 doctors and care providers to its telemedicine platform. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, NYU Langone conducted approximately telemedicine calls per day. Now, that number is closer to 4,000 daily, Brathwaite explained.
Virtual Urgent Care has played a key role in the midst of this pan- demic, allowing patients who have flu-like symptoms and other medical concerns to be seen remotely, in- cluding patients who have used the service to help identify symptoms of COVID-19. Virtual Urgent Care now takes more than 200 different types of insurance, including Medicare. The service is being employed by all departments, including bariatrics.
“Bariatric surgeries require pre-op work ups,” Brathwaite said. “We’re able to continue to meet with patients telemedicially to prepare them for their surgeries.”
Brathwaite said the use of telemedicine will continue even after the pandemic has subsided.
“Patients come to see me from all over, from the East End to the other side of Brooklyn,” Brathwaite said. “It hurts me when I have a patient from Upstate New York driving an hour and a half to visit me for a half hour appointment. Then, they have to make the trek back. With telemed- icine, they don’t need to be on the highway stuck in traffic.”
Virtual Urgent Care is now a service offered 24/7. NYU Langone locations are still open to see non-COVID patients who also need care, and cannot be seen remotely.
Patients can visit www.nyulangone.org to book appointments online.