With the effects of the pandemic resulting in upwards of 130,000 deaths in the United States as of press time, the healthcare industry has adapted to the fact that patients are not visiting hospitals and primary care givers for regular checkups and screenings.
Technology has allowed health professionals to bring medicine to the masses at a time when people are fearful of catching COVID-19. According to the American Hospital Association, 76 percent of U.S. hospitals currently connect with patients and consulting practitioners at a distance through the use of video and other technology. Almost every state Medicaid program has some form of coverage for telehealth services, and private payers are embracing coverage for many telehealth services. Board-certified internal medicine physician and wellness expert Dr. Eddie Fatakhov isn’t surprised at how quickly telemedicine is being embraced by the medical industry.
“Telemedicine is a great solution for individual practitioners who are looking to be more available to patients as newer health systems are offering wider-reaching networks,” he said. “This expansion of providers marries supply with patient demand and effectively allows patients easier access to clinical care and even emergency and intensive services. Telemedicine is also a great reducer of cost. Hospital costs are expensive, so hospital visits are too. By eliminating the need to go to the hospital for care that can be handled remotely, costs scale down across the board.”
Months before coronavirus became a household word, Northwell took the technology plunge when it launched a mobile app that’s an Uber for blood draws back in November. Called LabFly, the app lets patients schedule blood draws at home or their workplace. It was rolled out in Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan and Staten Island and the Bronx as well as other surrounding New York City metro areas by the end of 2019. The app-based service enables patients a convenient and private alternative to having their blood taken at a traditional patient service center, Northwell Health officials said. To use the app, patients enter their demographic information, take a photo of their insurance card and paper prescription, then choose a day and time slot to schedule a visit from one of more than 150 Northwell Health’s phlebotomists. On the day of the appointment, a patient can view the location of the lab technician similar to tracking rides on apps like Uber and Lyft. Most health insurance will cover the fee for lab testing and there is a $20 convenience fee, which includes transportation and sample collection, the health system said. Northwell Health Labs developed the app in partnership with software company MphRx and is based on its Minerva platform, an open-standards-based platform. And while lab companies such as VeniExpress offer at-home blood draws, Northwell Health officials said LabFly is the first at-home blood draw mobile app launched by a health system.
“At Northwell Health Labs, our goal is to bring innovative ideas to the table,” said Dr. Dwayne Breining, Northwell Health Labs executive director in a statement. “This app is a new way to give our patients access to the quality experience they would receive at one of our patient service centers but in their living room or place of work. Whether it’s young children who are anxious about a blood draw, busy professionals or someone you’re caring for, this app is a convenient way to help fulfill our patients’ needs,”
Mobile health vans have also taken on greater importance in bringing needed services to residents. Nassau County Legislator Joshua A. Lafazan (D—Woodbury) recently partnered with Advanced Cardiovascular Diagnostics to offer mobile COVID-19 antibody testing aboard their mobile testing facility, which was stationed in the parking lot of the James H. Vernon School on Tuesday, July 14. Cardiovascular screenings were offered in addition to COVID-19 testing. Lafazan emphasized the importance of a program like this with COVID-19 testing being so crucial in helping identify coronavirus cases and getting those people quick treatment and immediate isolation to prevent the virus’ spread.
“COVID-19 has profoundly impacted all of our lives during the past few months, and it is imperative to ensure that the curve remains flattened so that Nassau County can protect its residents and continue to safely re-open,” he said. “Antibody tests are an important tool we can use to protect our families and loved ones, and I’m pleased to work with Advanced Cardiovascular Diagnostics to bring this convenient clinic to our community.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran recently announced a renewed push for more cancer and breast cancer screenings in Nassau County via the use of mobile mammovans. With breast cancer, cervix and colon cancer screenings down between 86 to 94 percent since the pandemic lockdown began, Curran joined forces with Dr. Anthony Boutin, CEO of Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), and local breast cancer survivor Geri Barish, executive director of Hewlett House and president of 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition, to announce a renewed push for more cancer and breast cancer screenings in Nassau County.
“This is a nationwide trend and raises concerns that deadly cancers may go undetected if screening appointments aren’t scheduled soon,” Curran said. “We need to get the word out that early detection through screenings is the best way to successfully treat breast cancer. We wouldn’t want someone to be diagnosed down the road with late stage cancer because they were afraid of COVID-19.”
The ‘mammovan’ will be traveling around the county to give residents greater access to screenings that features 3D state-of-the-art technology that allows radiologist to look though the tissue to better identify suspicious lesions, as opposed to a 2D composite flat view. Multiple images are taken at different angles to create a view through slices in a 3D image, with results in less than 24 hours.
Residents can call the Cancer Screening Program at 516-572-5701 to set up an appointment at no-cost or low-cost at the mammovan.