Jul 01, 2020
NYC Health + Hospitals today announced the health system is a recipient of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) COVID-19 telehealth program grant that will allow the augmentation and further expansion of telemedicine services that are offered to patients. The one-million-dollar grant will help the public health system launch its on-demand telemedicine program and further expand its remote symptom monitoring program, as well as improve access to telehealth at home among high-risk and vulnerable patients. The on-demand telemedicine program provides convenient, high-quality virtual care options to all New Yorkers without the need for patients to travel to a physical health center or hospital. The Stay-At-Home Monitoring Program, one of a growing suite of remote patient monitoring programs launched by NYC Health + Hospitals in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leverages daily text messages to monitor patient symptoms and flag patients with worsening symptoms for telephone follow-up by a clinician. The telehealth connectivity program will help high-risk and vulnerable patients affected by the COVID-19 pandemic better access healthcare services via telehealth. These services build on the public health system’s emphasis on telemedicine to help provide New Yorkers the care they need and deserve where it’s safest – at home.
“Telemedicine is a critical part of the way that we provide care as it allows us to reach and care for patients beyond our four walls, in the safety and convenience of their own home,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Care Ted Long, MHS, MD. “This grant allows our health system to enhance and improve upon our telemedicine services, ensuring no one goes without the care they need and deserve to live their healthiest life.”
“Technology is a necessary and impactful tool to keep everyone safe as we adapt to our ‘post-COVID/pre-vaccine’ world while ensuring that we can provide ongoing care to all New Yorkers and prevent delayed care,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at NYC Eric Wei, MD, MBA. “We’re fortunate to have comprehensive telemedicine resources to provide on-demand virtual care, allowing us to further avoid possible transmission of COVID-19.”
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FCC has approved funding for 367 applicants in 42 states plus Washington, D.C. for over $128 million in funding.
The City’s public health system quickly scaled up its telemedicine services during the COVID-19 surge in a number of areas. The system went from just 500 billable virtual visits in the month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to nearly 57,000 in the first three weeks of the pandemic, and has now completed over 300,000 televisits to-date. At the same time, the health system greatly expanded its capacity for remote patient monitoring, launching daily text-based symptom monitoring for patients isolating with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 at home. During the COVID-19 surge, the system completed over 20,000 days of patient monitoring, providing symptom tracking and corresponding clinical guidance to ensure patients did not worsen at home. Meanwhile, the system handled approximately 13,000 patient messages over the same surge period via its patient portal, which allows patients to directly communicate with their care teams.
NYC Health + Hospitals began building its system-wide telehealth strategy in 2017. A patient survey that year revealed that over 65 percent of existing NYC Health + Hospitals patients were interested in telehealth, including 40 percent of respondents over the age of 65. In addition, the survey found 75 percent of respondents used their cell phones to access the internet, highlighting the need for mobile interventions.
In addition to scaling up its telemedicine services, NYC Health + Hospitals has also re-engineered its on-site clinical spaces throughout the health system to ensure patients, staff, and visitors are safe from any avoidable transmission of COVID-19 should they require an in-person care appointment. Learn more about these changes here.
Read more about NYC Health + Hospitals’ telehealth response during COVID-19 here.