You can take advantage of telehealth to access your child's health care provider for many types of appointments. This option saves you the hassle of travel and may be more appropriate for certain needs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are relying on video visits more than ever.
Telehealth: Virtual Visits at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals
What is telehealth? Is it a video visit?
Telehealth is a general term for using technology to provide health care at a geographical distance. The main telehealth tool used by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals is the video visit, which allows you to speak with your child's health care provider from home, the office or even your car. All you need is a smartphone or computer loaded with Zoom (a free video-conferencing program) and a MyChart account.
Another telehealth tool is our remote second opinion program. This service allows patients in other cities, states or countries to receive input from a UCSF doctor about their diagnosis or treatment plan without having to come to the clinic. A UCSF specialist will review relevant medical records and give the patient's health care provider a written second opinion.
What types of concerns are UCSF video visits for?
We offer video visits at the majority of our clinics, providing virtual care for hundreds of conditions. Our providers see patients online for primary care, follow-up visits (including postsurgical follow-up), mental health services, medication monitoring and other issues.
Of course, we can't manage everything remotely. Your doctor's office can help determine whether a video visit is right for your child’s needs.
How do I request and access a video visit?
Follow these seven easy steps to set up a video visit with your child’s provider:
- Contact your child's clinic to request an appointment.
- Set up your MyChart account, and download the MyChart app to your computer, phone or other device.
- In MyChart, view your appointment instructions for information on preparing your device for a video visit.
- Test your device. Your connection is successful when you can see yourself on-screen.
- Begin the MyChart eCheck-in process at least 15 minutes in advance of your appointment.
- Join the video visit at least 5 minutes before your appointment start time. You'll be placed in a waiting room and the provider will admit you.
- If you're having trouble, call MyChart customer service at (415) 514-6000 for assistance.
What should I expect during a video visit?
A video visit is much like a regular office visit; you and your child will simply be talking to the doctor or other health care provider from home or any other convenient location. A few minutes before the scheduled time, you'll log in for your video chat and then spend the same amount of time with the provider as you normally would. Your child's provider can assess symptoms, make diagnoses, recommend treatments, adjust medications and send prescriptions to your pharmacy. However, it's possible your provider will determine during the video visit that your child should be seen in person.
What technology do I need for a video visit?
Video conferencing can be done using a smartphone, laptop computer, tablet or desktop computer – any device with an integrated camera. You only need to download Zoom and create a MyChart account.
How has the coronavirus crisis affected telehealth?
We've ramped up telehealth services substantially since the pandemic began. Our providers are using video visits with patients whenever appropriate, to help keep everyone safe.
Patients with possible signs of COVID-19 can start the screening process by accessing an online symptom checker on MyChart. Depending on the result, they may receive self-care advice, a phone consultation with a nurse, a video visit appointment with their doctor, or a referral to urgent care.
In addition, we now have a virtual acute care center to efficiently and safely assess patients with serious respiratory symptoms. We've equipped our emergency department teams with telehealth tool kits that include high-resolution cameras, speakers and microphones. This allows them to interview patients who have COVID-19 symptoms without being exposed.
What do video visits cost, and does insurance cover them?
Here's how it works, by insurance type:
- For patients with private insurance plans – California law requires private insurers to treat video visits the same way they do in-person office visits. Your plan should reimburse a video visit as it would a regular visit; co-pays and deductibles still apply.
- For patients with Medi-Cal – Your video visits are covered.
- For patients with Medicare – Until recently, Medicare would not cover these visits when patients were at home (as opposed to being at another doctor's office). In response to the coronavirus, that restriction has been lifted and Medicare is reimbursing video visits, at least for the time being.