In One Month,The Institute for Family Health Delivers Over 36,000 Telehealth Visits to New York State Residents
To Address COVID-19, Health Care Goes Virtual
New York, NY (April 23, 2020) – In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Institute for Family Health has shifted the majority of its patient care services to remote telehealth, allowing patients to access essential health care by video or phone. From March 16 – April 17, 2020, the organization delivered over 36,000 telehealth visits to New York State residents, while continuing to deliver vital in-person care at its community health centers throughout the state. About 26,000 telehealth visits were provided to patients in New York City and about 10,000 to patients in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
Beginning in mid-March, the Institute, which serves over 115,000 New York State patients annually, rapidly deployed a new model of delivering services via telehealth, in an effort to sustain community access to primary health services while reducing the spread of COVID-19. The organization began encouraging both current and new patients to stay home and call their health center before visiting. Telehealth services are now available for a variety of primary medical care, mental health care, and case management services, including for specific concerns such as prescription refills, diabetes management, prenatal care and women’s health.
“In just one month, the Institute has provided over 20,000 medical visits and over 15,000 mental health visits via telehealth,” said Neil Calman, MD, the Institute’s president & CEO. “The pivot to telehealth permits our health care providers to deliver needed care to patients in their homes, so they can avoid the risk of exposure that comes with going out. Given the tremendous health disparities our patients already face – not to mention the alarming disparities we’re seeing with COVID-19 – it was critical that we preserved access to care during this pandemic.”
The Institute is encouraging patients to schedule these virtual appointments by calling their regular health center or by using MyChart, the Institute’s patient website. New patients can call the Institute center nearest their home: locations and phone numbers can be found at institute.org/locations. Ongoing access to care is particularly important for people with chronic conditions (such as asthma, hypertension or diabetes) and for those who take prescription medications. In most cases, the Institute can help people get care from home, using telehealth. At a time when emergency medical services are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, helping patients remain healthy in spite of chronic conditions like diabetes may prevent these conditions from spiraling into preventable medical emergencies.
The Institute continues to offer in-person care –with numerous new safeguards in place – to people with health needs that cannot be met by telehealth. Patients should call before going to an Institute health center for care, so that health center staff can assess whether a telehealth appointment might be more appropriate.
The Institute’s behavioral health services were the first to switch to telehealth, with all in-person appointments going remote the week of March 16. According to Abigail Herron, DO, the Institute’s vice president for behavioral health, patients appreciate the telehealth visits. “These are stressful times, and telehealth has provided an opportunity to engage those seeking behavioral health care in new and exciting ways, as well as meet the needs of existing patients.”
The Institute launched the telehealth program as a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, without any dedicated funding or equipment. The organization has since sought funding from both public and private sources to recoup emergency expenses, and shore up and expand the program so it can be sustained over the long term.
“Telehealth is undeniably critical right now, and it seems difficult to imagine a future without this tool in our primary care tool belt,” said Sarah C. Nosal, MD, VP for Innovation and Optimization, who helped spearhead the organization’s telehealth rollout. “For patients who really had struggled to make it into our offices–those with impairments in mobility, limited means, or for many other reasons–telehealth is a great option. It is easier and more personal than we had imagined, and allows us to really bring the health care visit home, virtually.”
As a federally qualified health center network, the Institute for Family Health is committed to providing top-quality care to all patients, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. Institute health centers accept Medicare, Medicaid and dozens of private insurance plans, and offer a sliding-fee scale for those in need. To schedule a telehealth appointment, visit institute.org/telehealth or call 844-434-2778.
The Institute for Family Health (www.institute.org) is a federally qualified health center network that operates 32 practices in New York State serving 115,000 patients annually. Services are available to people of all ages, regardless of ability to pay.