Over 5000 people in shelters accessed telehealth through NYC Health+Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare

New York, NY – April 1, 2024: NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Social Services announced that since January 2023, over 5,000 people in shelter accessed telehealth services through the Virtual ExpressCare platform. Virtual ExpressCare offers round-the-clock access to healthcare, 365 days a year, making it easy for patients to access care when and where it’s convenient for them without taking time off from work, spending money on transportation, or finding child care. With an average wait time of less than 5 minutes and access in over 200 languages, the service offers prompt and confidential care to all New Yorkers. Virtual ExpressCare offers care for physical, behavioral and reproductive health concerns, including but not limited to COVID-19, minor injuries, fever, flu, upper respiratory infections, abortion, anxiety, depression, and substance use issues. Virtual ExpressCare is available at expresscare.nyc or by calling 631-EXP-Care (631-397-2273).

Of the 5,000 individuals in shelter who used Virtual ExpressCare, nearly half were uninsured, while another 5% were covered through NYC Care, underscoring the importance of financial access for healthcare delivery. Virtual ExpressCare caters to a multilingual demographic group, with Spanish, English, and French ranking as the top languages spoken. The demographic breakdown further underscores the commitment to serving New York City’s diverse communities, with Latino and Black patients comprising 70% of those accessing Virtual ExpressCare.

“All New Yorkers have a right to health care, and our administration is committed to making it easier for everyone to access the support they need, including our neighbors living in shelter,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Virtual ExpressCare is making it so anyone can speak to a doctor in minutes, at any hour of the day. I want to thank NYC Health + Hospitals and the Department of Social Services for working together to help thousands of people in our shelters access health care quickly, easily, and affordably.”

“I am immensely proud of the transformative impact Virtual ExpressCare has had on the lives of patients,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Executive Director of Virtual ExpressCare Erfan Karim, MPH. “Virtual ExpressCare is here to make life easier for people who can’t easily take off of work to go to the doctor. By breaking down barriers to healthcare access, we are reaffirming our commitment to inclusivity and equity in serving all New Yorkers, regardless of their circumstances.”

“Far too often, New Yorkers experiencing homelessness struggle to access the care they need to address their physical and mental health concerns which leads to worse health outcomes and additional barriers to stability. NYC Health + Hospital’s Virtual ExpressCare has allowed us to expand access to healthcare for our clients in shelter and connect thousands of families and individuals to the quality, convenient, and affordable care they deserve,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. “Virtual ExpressCare has been immensely beneficial to our clients and staff, and we value the opportunity to work in partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals and the ExpressCare team to eliminate barriers to care for New York City’s most vulnerable communities.”

Shelter residents have embraced this transformative healthcare solution with enthusiasm, tripling their usage year over year, reflecting the significant impact of Virtual ExpressCare’s tailored services. In 2022, Virtual ExpressCare began raising awareness and educating shelter staff and residents about this service by partnering with the Department of Social services to hire and develop a team to conduct outreach with shelter leadership, train staff to create credible messengers within the shelter system, and integrate ExpressCare into existing agency initiatives. The outreach team also collaborated with the ExpressCare team to communicate how services could be better tailored to meet these clients’ needs, through closing barriers and improving access to care or impacting treatment adherence to improve health outcome and quality. As a result, ExpressCare has become an integral referral resource for the shelter programs encountering adults or families who cannot easily access medical care.

Launched in 2020, Virtual ExpressCare has grown to offer approximately 90,000 virtual visits annually. The service played a key role in the City’s and State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Virtual ExpressCare partnered with the New York State Department of Health to offer COVID-19 therapeutics through the State’s new COVID-19 hotline, 888-TREAT-NY. The service provides same or next day life-saving COVID-19 therapeutic treatment.

NYC Health + Hospitals serves patients regardless of their ability to pay. Patients with insurance may need to pay a copay. If patients cannot afford to pay or are uninsured, Virtual ExpressCare will provide care and connect patients to trained financial counselors who can help them enroll in health insurance coverage or financial assistance through NYC Care, Medicaid, and Medicare, with per visit fees as low as $0, depending on patients’ income and family size.

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