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Upstate University Hospital offering same day virtual emergency-room visits

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Upstate University Hospital says it is now offering patients the chance for virtual, same day, emergency-room visits through a smartphone or computer. Upstate says the service is meant for non-life-threatening medical needs such as cuts, sprains, sore throats, coughs, and colds. (Photo credit: zoeyadvertising.com)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate University Hospital says it is now offering patients the chance to meet with an Upstate emergency-medicine physician during a same-day telehealth visit through a smartphone or computer.

The new service provides patients “quick, convenient access” to board-certified Upstate physicians to discuss and diagnose non-life-threatening medical needs, Upstate announced.

Patients can make an appointment online through the MyChart patient portal or call (315) 464-5577 for help setting up a MyChart account and to make the appointment.

Upstate Emergency Medicine will email the patient a link to connect with a doctor, “meaning no new additional software is necessary.”

Most calls will last about 15 minutes, according to Dr. William Paolo, associate professor and interim chair for emergency medicine and co-founder of the new program.

“We’re not trying to keep people out of the emergency room. I’m actually trying to encourage people to come back to the emergency room especially if it’s necessary,” Paolo said. “We’ve seen the harm that can occur by not taking care of chronic medical conditions. The message here is if you’re going to go to an urgent care center with a minor complaint, you can just come and see us online.”

Paolo said the service is a helpful option for patients looking to speak with a physician about minor injuries or concerns, such as cuts, sprains, sore throats, coughs, and colds. The service has been in the works for many months, “long before the coronavirus pandemic,” Paolo said.

The virtual emergency-room visits “should be seen as a complimentary service” for patients but not in place of medical emergencies or a warranted trip to the emergency department, which is “taking abundant precautions to remain a safe space” for patients during the pandemic, he added.

Dr. Derek Cooney, associate professor of emergency medicine, worked with Paolo to found the service at Upstate.

“You’re getting direct, one-on-one attention from a board-certified emergency physician, whereas in the emergency department even, we’re pulled in so many different directions,” said Cooney. “This is a patient’s opportunity to really go face-to-face and have their very own board-certified emergency physician who is completely focused on their care and can get them quickly through their scheduled appointment.

The service is available 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with plans to expand to 16-hour days, seven days a week, Paolo said. Physicians will see patients of all ages and all insurance carriers are accepted, as well as a self-pay option if the patient prefers.

“Essentially this is a virtual urgent care center,” Paolo said. “It’s a way for your everyday minor annoyances that you can get taken care of and not have to venture out of your house.”