Patient Care

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wilmot Offers Telemedicine Visits for Some Patients

May. 22, 2020

Wilmot Cancer Institute is offering some telemedicine appointments to help protect our patients, staff and community during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, we answer common questions Wilmot patients and families may have about this option.

What is telemedicine and why is it being used right now?

Family having a Zoom call with provider team

Telemedicine is a way to replace in-person clinic visits with phone calls or video-conferencing. Currently, Wilmot offers video telemedicine. When video is not possible, telephone is an option, but video is preferred because it allows the oncology team to be able to see the patient, and vice versa. Although video does not fully replace the information gathered in an in-person visit, your treatment team can gather much more useful information, including many parts of the physical exam, from a video visit compared to a telephone-only visit.

We have put numerous safety measures in place to protect you, so it is safe to come into the hospital or the clinic if you need to. Having a telemedicine option available, however, encourages social distancing, which could reduce the spread of COVID-19. 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. See this FAQ about coronavirus and cancer.

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. Prior to their scheduled appointment, 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 and answer any questions you may have about it.

In-person appointments may be necessary if:

  • A patient requires treatments such as injections, infusions or transfusions;
  • The oncologist determines the visit is urgent;
  • A detailed physical exam is necessary;
  • 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?

For a video telemedicine visit, you will need a device with a camera, such as a smartphone (any model), an iPad or a laptop. You will also need a stable internet connection. You will need to download a free application (Zoom) to your device so you can access a secure virtual room to meet with your treatment team. 

If you do not have access to a camera, a telemedicine appointment can take place through telephone, and for this, you would only need access to a phone.

What should I do before a video telemedicine appointment?

A good place to start is by watching this video. It shows you how to download and set up your Zoom account so that you are ready for your video visit.

You will receive a message (through either MyChart or email) with written details about your video visit. This message will also contain links to download Zoom and some information about how to access your visit. If you are having technical issues with Zoom, you can call 1-844-455-8762, available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, or visit the Zoom Help Center website.

Is video telemedicine private and safe from potential hackers?

For our video visits, UR Medicine uses Zoom Pro, a HIPAA compliant video/audio connection to provide a secure visit. The security incidents you may have heard about on the news have not occurred in Zoom Pro accounts. We have taken every measure to enhance the security of these visits so that your privacy is protected at all times. Each video visit has a unique ID access code, and only people who have this code can enter your secure room. This code will be shared with you via our online patient portal, MyChart, or if you choose not to enable your MyChart account, we can send you this code via email.

Please be aware that some email accounts do not have the same level of security as Zoom Pro or MyChart, so if security is a concern we strongly recommend activating your MyChart account. If you have concerns about the security of a video telemedicine appointment, please talk with your oncology team.

Will I be charged for a telemedicine visit?

There is a fee associated with a telemedicine visits, but these visits are being covered by insurance in most cases. The details of billing procedures around telemedicine visits are still being updated, but, just like the process for an in-person ambulatory visit, UR Medicine will bill insurance providers for telemedicine visits.

Most 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. ‚Äč

What will I receive before my telemedicine appointment?

For a video telemedicine visit, you will receive information about your visit through either the online patient portal, MyChart, or via an email address that you provide to the scheduler. This message will detail how to prepare for and access your video visit.

For telephone visits, you will provide 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. If your provider is unable to reach you, we will need to reschedule your visit.

What happens in a telemedicine visit?

A video telemedicine appointment is similar to an in-person visit. Your oncology team may ask to check you physically – for example, to examine a skin rash or to observe how you walk. 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 with you on MyChart. Patients will also receive an after-visit summary through MyChart or by mail if they don’t use MyChart.

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, the process for telemedicine appointments may change as well.

I need more help setting up Zoom and preparing for my video visit. Are there other resources that can help me?

Yes! There are videos that can walk you through the setup steps on multiple different devices (tablets, computers and smartphones). If you need help, please see one or more of the videos below that represents your comfort level with this technology:

1. I am familiar with Zoom but just need a little refresher.

2. I have not used Zoom before, but I am comfortable with technology, including downloading and using apps.

3. I need details, step-by-step instructions to prepare for my video visit.