UHS offers a free virtual COVID-19 screening. (Photo: UHS)

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it likely will at some point:  Despite precautions, you find out that you were exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.  What to do next?

If you live in UHS’ service area, you can start with a free virtual COVID-19 screening, available online 24/7. This service piggybacks on UHS’ Virtual Walk-In service, which has been offered since June 2019.

“UHS providers had already been conducting virtual walk-in visits via Zipnosis for nine months before the pandemic hit,” said Sean Britton, program manager of Telehealth at UHS.  “So they were accustomed to the platform, and patients had a chance to try it out. At one point in April during ‘New York on Pause,’ our providers were conducting more virtual visits than in-person ones.”

Recognizing the coming storm, Zipnosis offered partner organizations the use of its virtual coronavirus screening tool this past spring. Over a three-week period in March, the entire UHS medical staff participated in virtual training sessions in using the tool.  Since then, nearly 9,200 screenings have been completed, resulting in 2,676 follow-up appointments.  

There’s no limit to how many times you can access the screening tool.  It enables you to avoid wading through clinical recommendations online, or calling your healthcare provider’s office every time you have an exposure concern. Anyone may use the online screening tool, but you must live in New York State to schedule a follow-up virtual visit with a UHS provider.

To use the tool, simply visit the Virtual Health section of the UHS website, at nyuhs.org, and select “Start Your Screening.” It prompts you to create an account if you don’t have one.  The process takes about three minutes, and you don’t have to be a current UHS patient. After that, you’re asked to respond to a series of questions based on symptoms, travel history, suspected or known exposures, and other factors. The tool uses algorithms from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for care and, based on your answers, determines your risk category and routes you to next steps.

Said Mr. Britton, “If it’s necessary, the system will prompt you to start a virtual walk-in visit with a UHS provider who can order a COVID-19 test if needed. If you’re not at risk, the tool will provide info about when to seek care in the future.”

If you do need a follow-up appointment, your virtual visit will connect you to a local UHS primary care provider, physician assistant or nurse practitioner–the same clinicians who conduct in-person visits at UHS Walk-In locations.

“These providers specialize in acute conditions that need prompt attention but not emergency care,” Mr. Britton said. If your provider decides a COVID-19 test is warranted, you’ll be referred for one at the drive-through UHS testing site closest to you: UHS Vestal, UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital or UHS Delaware Valley Hospital. Results will be available in one to three days and patients receive their results via a phone call and a notification in the UHS MyChart app.

“We’re so pleased to make this public health resource available to the community,” Mr. Britton commented.  “If you have a concern, complete the screening so you can get more information or necessary care. As much as this is a clinical service, it’s also a public education tool that helps us engage with our community, which is a critical part of our mission.”

To begin a virtual coronavirus screening, visit https://www.nyuhs.org/care-treatment/virtual-health and click on COVID-19 screening tool. 

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

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