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

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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. 

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