News10NBC Investigates: Telemedicine options available amid hospital overcrowding

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — For weeks, News10NBC has been investigating overcrowded hospitals caused by major staffing shortages and an increase in demand for services. Our entire local healthcare system is so impacted, no matter what kind of care you need, you’re going to wait longer for it unless you’re willing to consider telemedicine. The alternative is available for most people with insurance even in urgent cases.

Staffing has been a problem at local hospitals, nursing homes, and ambulance companies for years. The issue was exacerbated when New York State’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers went into effect a few weeks ago. More than two dozen local nursing homes and rehabilitation centers were so understaffed, they stopped accepting new patients which has led to those people backing up in hospitals. Combine that with an increase in demand for emergency and urgent care and the system is near a breaking point, “this is some of the most challenging (circumstances) I’ve seen in the last dozen years,” Dr. Keith Grams, the Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rochester Regional Health tells News10NBC.

So, before you leave for an emergency room or urgent care, you might want to check your health insurance plan. Many insurers provide virtual urgent or emergency care options. MVP Health Care for example, has what it calls GIA, an application that can link you almost immediately to a medical professional.

“We encourage people to start there, no matter what time of day it is because that way you may actually avoid a long wait in the emergency room and a visit that is unnecessary,” explains Dr. Kimberly Kilby, the Medical Director for MVP.

The person seeing you through GIA has the same level of experience you’ll get at an urgent care, “these are real humans, they’re actually a provider group based in New York so they’re local which is wonderful,” says Dr. Kilby, “if you start with them and you need additional higher-level care, they can actually deploy emergency medical services to the home to do things and treat you at the home keep you out of the hospital.”

Obviously, if you think your situation is a matter of life or death, you should call 911 right away but if you can consider a virtual option, you may not only save time but money.