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SBH Health System embraces telehealth to treat COVID-19 patients

Telehealth services have expanded rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a safe, secure alternative to inpatient health visits and routine care. Amid the pandemic’s surge, SBH Health System in the Bronx turned to telehealth as a means to provide care to COVID-19 patients who were able to be discharged but were still at risk of developing hypoxia and clinical deterioration at home.

In 2020, SBH found itself in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic; during the spring surge and subsequent months hospital leadership had to determine the best way to treat their cohort of COVID-19 patients who were able to be discharged from the emergency department but would still need consistent follow-up from clinicians to avoid silent hypoxia and a potential delay in treatment — both significant contributors to morbidity and mortality. The hospital received a supply of pulse oximeters from New York City’s Office of Emergency Services and developed a robust telehealth follow-up program. Upon discharge from the ED, patients were provided with a pulse oximeter, training, smart phone app and a prescheduled telehealth follow-up visit to be initiated by an ED physician.

By embracing information technology, prioritizing patient access and involving frontline ED and finance staff, SBH was able to distribute more than 320 pulse oximeters since December 2020 and successfully engage more than 210 patients in telehealth visits, identifying 23 patients who required a return to the ED for further treatment. Patients in the telehealth program frequently reported high satisfaction from the follow-up call.

For more information, contact program co-leads Jakub Bartnik, DO, associate medical director and director, emergency ultrasound, at (718) 960-3712 or jbartnik@sbhny.org; and Jeffrey Lazar, MD, MPH, medical director and vice chair, at (718) 960-9447 or jlazar@sbhny.org.