Two large Long Island-based pediatric groups are pushing parents to use remote health care for their kids when possible amid the coronavirus outbreak.
New Hyde Park-based PM Pediatrics and Melville-based Allied Physicians Group both have seen a spike in remote care since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the metropolitan area.
Remote care, or telemedicine, is when a doctor or another medical professional interacts with patients via phone, tablet or other devices with a camera.
Remote visits can range from having a physician check a sore throat with a flashlight to routine post-procedural checkups, where a doctor could ask a patient to push parts of their body and ask for pain levels. But not all care can be delivered through remote visits, doctors added.
PM Pediatrics, the pediatric urgent care group with eight Long Island locations and more than 50 total, said it has had more than 600 remote visits this week throughout its footprint, which is about 10 times more than average. Also, about 8,000 people nationwide have registered with PM Pediatrics via their app or website to use the service. That’s up from about 1,300 a week ago.
“Many patients don’t need to come in but need to be evaluated,” said Dr. Jeffrey Schor, co-CEO of PM Pediatrics. “So for people who can avoid coming in, it’s a real nice option at a time like this, when people are nervous about the virus and are also practicing social distancing.”
Schor said about 100 doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants have been trained to help patients remotely, and another 100 will be trained by next week. He said most are doctors.
PM Pediatrics has been pushing further into telemedicine for the past few months, as it expands into more remote areas of the country, including Alaska. The group last month launched a pilot program, which helps diagnose children via a video link to school nurses’ offices, connecting Long Island-based pediatricians with nurses’ offices in schools in the Anchorage, Alaska, school district.
School nurses in Alaska connect with PM Pediatrics physicians via a secure device, examine the child and then transmit information to the PM Pediatrics doctor. The doctor then reviews the exam and calls the parent or guardian with a detailed explanation of the exam results and plan of care.
Depending on the diagnosis, PM Pediatrics doctors can prescribe a course of action and treatment, some of which may be beyond the school nurse’s medically permissible mission. Students can then either be returned to the classroom or be picked up by their parents. PM Pediatrics doctors also can call in prescriptions to a local pharmacy, which would be ready for pickup when the parent and student arrives.
Allied Physicians Group, which has more than 30 offices in the metropolitan area, 23 of which are on Long Island, said it has seen its telemedicine "visits" expand from 79 in January to 350 in the first half of March, said Dr. Kerry Fierstein, the group's CEO. Allied patients can use their remote services by downloading the Anytime Pediatrics app.
"We'd almost always want to see you in person, because there is a lot you can't do as well in telemedicine," Fierstein said. "I can't check for a sinus infection, for instance, without looking up your nose. But we recognize that convenience has become big," and the virus has kept many people home.
Fierstein added that between remote care and limiting the number of people who can come to an office with a patient, Allied has eliminated patients spending time in waiting rooms, where an illness could spread.
"They can go right into a room," she said.