Tenet California hospitals launch telehealth ER screenings: 5 things to know 

Tenet Health Central Coast, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, on Aug. 26 announced a new telehealth emergency room screening option for patients unsure of whether they want to seek medical attention for suspected COVID-19 or other emergency medical conditions. 

Tenet launched Tenet Health Central Coast, a single name and brand for two acute care hospitals and affiliated care centers in central California, last October. The hospitals comprising the brand are San Luis Obispo-based Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Templeton-based Twin Cities Community Hospital. 

Five things to know: 

1. The new tele-ER option allows people to talk to a Tenet ER physician 24/7, via smartphone, tablet or computer. 

2. A patient calling Tenet's tele-ER number will be connected to a staff member for registration before an ER evaluation by video conference. 

3. Patients needing in-person care, diagnostic procedures or lab tests will be asked to come to the hospital. Tele-ER is meant to serve as an evaluation tool for patients seeking emergency care and is not a substitute for 911, Tenet said. 

4. Brad Knox, MD, emergency services director at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center said tele-ER helps address patients' concerns with going to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic: "This helps address a tremendous challenge during these times: across the country, we have seen patients delay care due to concerns about going to hospitals and, unfortunately, that has life-altering consequences." 

5. Medicare now covers tele-ER visits, which typically cost $20 for Medicare patients, but does not include the cost of follow-up, in-person care if it is needed. The virtual service also may be eligible for reimbursement from other payers, according to the news release. 

More articles on telehealth: 
Hartford HealthCare to open telemedicine urgent care at new patient care access center 
Virtual care companies seeking IPOs, potential sales amid telehealth surge
Humana sues telehealth firm, alleges fraudulent visits, prescriptions: 5 details

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