Coronavirus (COVID 19): Wilmot Launches Telemedicine Visits for Some Patients
COVID-19: Visitor Restrictions for Wilmot Cancer Institute
Given the extreme public health risks surrounding COVID-19, and in accordance with the Monroe County Department of Public Health, we have taken the difficult and unprecedented action of eliminating virtually all hospital visitors to prevent potential spread of this virus. Effective Monday, April 6, 2020, Wilmot Cancer Institute will no longer permit patients to have visitors in its outpatient settings for the safety of our patients, staff and providers. This includes infusion centers, clinics and radiation oncology. This new visitor policy will be in place until further notice and applies to all Wilmot Cancer Institute locations. Read more about the visitor restrictions.
Wilmot Cancer Institute has begun offering some telemedicine appointments to help protect our patients, staff and community during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, we answer some common questions Wilmot patients and families may have about this option.
What is telemedicine and why is it being used right now?
Telemedicine is a way to replace in-person clinic visits with phone calls or video-conferencing. Currently, Wilmot’s telemedicine visits only involve phone calls but in the coming weeks, oncologists plan to offer video options, too.
Using telemedicine, when appropriate, encourages social distancing, which could reduce the spread of the virus. This is incredibly important for people with cancer, who often have weakened immune systems and who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract coronavirus.
Who is eligible for a telemedicine visit?
Those who have non-urgent follow-up appointments that do not include active treatment may be eligible.
Patients can contact their oncology team to find out if a telemedicine visit is possible.
Wilmot’s doctors are reviewing their lists of upcoming appointments to identify which ones might qualify for telemedicine and which ones can be rescheduled. Patients who are eligible for telemedicine will receive a phone call from a Wilmot Cancer Institute staff member, who will explain the process for this type of visit.
In-person appointments may be necessary if:
- A patient requires treatments such as injections, infusions or transfusions.
- The oncologist determines the visit is urgent; if a physical exam determines a recurrence and/or if an in-person visit is necessary for discussions of next steps.
- A patient is establishing oncology care for the first time. However, an exception will be made if the physician, upon reviewing the new patient’s chart, believes a visit is not urgently needed. In this case, Wilmot staff may contact the patient to see if they would be willing to switch to a telemedicine appointment or to be rescheduled.
Additionally, providers will determine on a case-by-case basis whether patients who are discharged from the hospital are eligible to schedule follow-up appointments via telemedicine. They will inform patients upon being discharged.
Do I need special equipment to have a telemedicine visit?
At this time, you only need to have access to a phone for a telemedicine appointment at Wilmot. In the coming weeks, our team hopes to offer video telemedicine appointments. When that is ready, different equipment may be required and information about equipment requirements will be made available.
Will I be charged for a telemedicine visit?
There may be a fee associated with a telephone visit, but it’s typically lower than an in-person appointment. The details of billing procedures around telemedicine visits are still being determined, but, just like the process for an in-person ambulatory visit, UR Medicine will bill insurance providers for telemedicine visits. Several insurance companies have decided to waive the co-pay responsibilities for patients who have a telemedicine visit while we are under a State of Emergency. If you have questions about what your insurance will cover, please contact your insurer.
How are telemedicine visits set up?
If a Wilmot patient agrees to a telemedicine visit, they provide Wilmot with a phone number for the doctor to call at the appointment time. The oncology team provides a time range when the physician will call. Providers are expected to make at least two attempts to reach the patient by phone.
What happens in a telemedicine visit?
A telemedicine appointment is similar to an in-person visit. During the conversation with the patient, the doctor takes notes just like they would during an in-person visit, and these notes will be shared on MyChart. Patients will also receive an after-visit summary through MyChart or by mail if they don’t use MyChart.
How Do I Get Support?
A Zoom Help Line for patients who are doing telephone or video visits is available by calling 1-844-455-8762. Calls will be answered Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Please note: Other departments within the University of Rochester Medical Center may be using telemedicine in different ways. The Wilmot staff will make every attempt to provide clear instructions, and patients are encouraged to ask questions. Also, as the concerns around COVID-19 change, telemedicine plans may shift as well.