Fort Greene

Brooklyn Hospital hopes technology can keep waiting rooms clear during the coronavirus crisis

March 19, 2020 Paul Frangipane
Attending Physician of Internal Medicine at Brooklyn Hospital Center Dr. Sam Amirfar demonstrates telemedicine in the facility’s new command center. The hospital promoted the new center as a way to pre-screen patients for COVID-19 without having them come to the facility. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Brooklyn Hospital Center unveiled a new telemedicine command center inside their Fort Greene facility on Thursday that health care professionals and the borough president hope will help reduce the number of patients in the hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The center is a room filled with computers set up to allow doctors to perform electronic pre-screenings, which can include video conferences or phone calls, for people who believe they may have COVID-19. The debut comes two days after the hospital announced it was opening a pre-screening tent outside the emergency room to help save hospital resources and stop the spread of the virus.

“This must be a major part of the system we use to prevent the overcrowding of the emergency rooms,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams about telemedicine. “If we use antiquated methods to fight a modern crisis, we’re going to be left behind.”

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Brooklyn Hospital Center, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, promoted a new telemedicine command center in the hospital to take virtual appointments for pre-screenings of COVID-19. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Borough President Eric Adams spoke about the new tele-medical center. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The city’s hospitals are not using the 21st century screening tool enough, Adams said.

New York City’s public hospitals only offer telemedicine for diabetes, while some private hospitals, like NYU Langone, offer services like video visits more generally.

A spokesperson from NYC Health and Hospitals did not respond to request for comment in time when asked whether the city had plans to offer telemedicine for COVID-19 pre-screenings.

Dr. Sam Amirfar holds an e-visit with a patient to pre-screen them for COVID-19. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Dr. Sam Amirfar holds an e-visit with a patient to pre-screen them for COVID-19. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

On Thursday afternoon, the line for the pre-screening tent outside Brooklyn Hospital Center wrapped around past the nearby entrance to Fort Greene Park. Promoting socially-distanced hospital visits could help reduce that line by stopping anxiety-filled patients from leaving their homes during the crisis.

When a patient calls the hospital, an agent will offer them an e-visit if appropriate and if the patient agrees, they’ll then be able to make an electronic appointment with a doctor.

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Dr. Sam Amirfar in Internal Medicine demonstrated a call that lasted about five minutes and consisted of him asking a patient a series of questions to see if their symptoms were consistent with COVID-19.

People line up to get into a COVID-19 pre-screening tent outside Brooklyn Hospital Center on March 19, 2020. The tent debuted two days prior to reduce the amount of people in the hospital. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
People line up to get into a COVID-19 pre-screening tent outside Brooklyn Hospital Center on March 19, 2020. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Symptoms include a cough, fever, shortness of breath, severe headaches and body aches, according to Dr. Amirfar.

New York City had 3,615 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of the time of publishing, with 1,030 cases in Brooklyn.

Statewide there is about a 19 percent hospitalization rate for the disease.

The U.S. Navy also announced on Wednesday that it was sending the 1,000-bed USNS Comfort hospital ship to New York City to help alleviate a predicted shortfall of hospital capacity.


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