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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals Launches Telehealth Services for Women at Rikers Island

Joint Program of NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services and NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Will Improve Patient Experience

Apr 10, 2018

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services and NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst today announced the launch of telehealth services for female patients on Rikers Island, expanding on the telehealth services available at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for men on Rikers. The telehealth program expansion is expected to reduce patient inconvenience, minimize disruptions in hospital operations, and reduce the demand on the resources of the Department of Correction.

When female patients at Rikers Island need specialty care, they are taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. Due to security precautions associated with transporting a patient from Rikers to the hospital for specialty care appointments, the trip can take hours and patients must forgo regular programming they receive in jail, such as law library and recreational time. Such obstacles will lead some female patients to refuse an appointment, putting their health in jeopardy.

“We know from our experience with NYC health + Hospitals/Bellevue that telehealth is a good way to improve access to care,” said Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals for Correctional Health Services. “We are delighted to be able to offer the same service to our female patients.”

“Every woman deserves access to a full range of health care services—no matter where she lives,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who recently announced a series of new initiatives to support incarcerated women on Rikers Island and their families. “By providing telehealth services for women on Rikers Island, there will be fewer missed appointments and fewer gaps in health care. This innovative and effective option will help address individual health needs and provide consistency of care for women who are incarcerated.”

Launched in February 2018, the telehealth service at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst currently includes rheumatology, oncology, and hematology services, while other specialties, such as infectious disease and gastroenterology, will be added at a later date. Since the launch, the first four female patients have been seen by NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst doctors via the telehealth system.

“This is an invaluable project, and I think it’s a great idea for medicine,” said Dr. Joseph Lieber, a diagnostician and clinical educator at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst who has been working on the telehealth launch. “The women from Rikers we see are a smaller population than the men from Rikers, who go to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, but the population is not small in need. These women have a lot of medical issues, and it’s to everyone’s advantage—the patients, the doctors, and the jail—to use telehealth because patients can get a good medical visit more quickly and easily. This technology helps ensure patients can get their ongoing care.”

Correctional Health Services initially rolled out its telehealth program in May 2016 at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, where specialty services continue to be added. Hematology, oncology, and dermatology are the newest additions to service offerings that already include infectious disease, urology, rheumatology, pulmonary, and gastroenterology.

In addition to provider-to-patient encounters, the telehealth service is used for provider-to-provider consultations, which, for example, may facilitate assessments for post-acute care admissions to NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler. Within the jail system itself, telehealth will also be used to ensure timely access to care, including intake assessment of new admissions in Brooklyn and the Bronx.