The Brooklyn Hospital Center on Thursday announced the opening of a new telemedicine facility within the hospital, offering another way to potentially pre-screen for coronavirus through live video conferencing on a patient’s phone or computer.

Health professionals began using the technology in the 1960s to reach remote patients living in the rural areas. Over time, medical staff saw its benefit in reaching urban populations to address healthcare shortages and respond to medical emergencies by sharing medical consults and patient health records without delay.

The telemedicine center in Brooklyn is staffed with trained health care professionals from the hospital prepared to pre-screen patients for potential symptoms consistent with COVID-19 before advising them whether or not they should admit themselves to the hospital in person.

The idea is to alleviate overcrowding in emergency rooms (ERs) and minimize strain on medical resources while pre-screening for coronavirus. Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that the State would waive copayments for telehealth visits.

A number of telehealth platforms currently are offered through city-based institutions such as NYU Langone, Columbia, New York Presbyterian, and Mount Sinai, among others. NYC Health + Hospitals, however, only offers a telemedicine for patients with diabetes.

Borough President Adams, who has long been a proponent of telemedicine, attended the facility opening, and is calling for the telemedicine model to be scaled fully across the city immediately:

“Now more than ever, as our hospitals grapple with the spread of coronavirus, it is imperative we have an infrastructure set up to pre-screen potential cases of COVID-19 without requiring people to come in,” Adams said. “It’s time New York City Health + Hospitals (NYC H+H) scales up this model and conducts comprehensive outreach to vulnerable populations letting them know this resource exists.”

“Telehealth is a win-win-win situation. The non-sick patients limit their exposure, our TBHC providers limit their exposure, and our overall community benefits from better social distancing and more convenient access to medical advice,” said Dr. Sam J. Amirfar, MD, chief medical information officer, who gave a brief simulation of how to use the system from their home.

Call 833-TBHC-NOW or 833-824-2669 to speak to a patient associate, who will assess your needs and direct you if telemedicine is appropriate. The call center is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday through Friday.

Please do not call for routine questions, as it will overburden the call center. The telemedicine center is available only if there is a serious concern about infection.

A livestream from today’s press conference is available here.


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