(ABOVE: image via Facebook – Hudson Regional Hospital)
by Christopher M. Halleron
Some Hudson County patients testing positive for COVID-19 are reportedly receiving potentially confusing messages from the firm evaluating the exams, as that firm is soliciting payment for supplemental services.
A reader tells hMAG that he had been examined at Hudson Regional Hospital (HRH) in Secaucus on March 30. HRH had been established as a testing site by Hudson County the week prior, advertising that patients would get results within 3-5 days.
After five days, on Friday, April 3, the patient reached out to HRH to follow up on his testing results and was informed that they would be in touch again soon.
The following Monday, April 6, he received a somewhat cryptic text message, reading, “(Radius Telemed & Hudson Regional Hospital) Results for your COVID 19 test are POSITIVE. To request a telehealth eval, email COVID@radiustelemed.org, or call 877-360-1122. STOP to end.”
Radius Telemed is a medical testing firm that handles remote evaluations for medical practitioners. Given the overwhelming volume of testing taking place at the HRH facility, Radius Telemed was brought on board to facilitate the exam process and to communicate those results to the patients.
However, the patient we spoke with tells us that he received another text message the following day (Tuesday, April 7), reading, “(Radius Telemed & Hudson Regional Hospital) Results for COVID-19 test are POSITIVE. If you would like a telehealth evaluation, email COVID@radiustelemed.org or go to: https://www.radiustelemed.org/store/p2/COVID-19_Telehealth_Visit.html. Call 877-360-1122 if you have questions. Reply STOP to end.“The link included in that second text message took the patient to a page on Radius Telemed’s website that offered a “COVID-19 Telehealth Visit” for patients to, “Set up a video exam and evaluation with a medical provider (physician or nurse practitioner) if you have concerns about COVID-19.”
The cost of that COVID-19 Telehealth Visit is $20. Payment is collected immediately, although a notice on the page tells patients, “Due to high demand, after payment it may take 24-48 hours for a provider to call you back for your evaluation. Please be patient during this time. If you feel that your symptoms are severe, and need immediate attention, call 911. If you have paid for your consult and it has been more than 48 hours, please email COVID@radiustelemed.org to let us know.”
Meanwhile, the patient—a Hoboken resident—was subsequently contacted the following day (Wednesday, April 8) by the Hoboken Health Department and informed that he had in fact tested positive. The patient mentioned the text messages, to which the Hoboken Health Department representative claimed to have no knowledge of the text message outreach being conducted by Radius Telemed.
Less than an hour later, he was then contacted by HRH and told that he had tested positive, which only added to the procedural confusion.
The patient self-quarantined and has since recovered. Yet Radius Telemed reached out to him once again with another text message featuring his name, a 9-digit number and another link—this time directing him to a page on their website that offered an “Immune Boosting Consultation.” The price of “telemedicine video consultation with one of the nation’s top physicians, Dr. Sam Faramarzi,” is $120.
According to her own website, Dr. Faramarzi is, “Licensed Naturopathic Doctor,” who “partners with her patients to help them achieve their health goals through the many modalities in her toolbox.”
hMAG reached out to Hudson County and to Hudson Regional Hospital to inquire about Radius Telemed’s text solicitations of COVID-19 patients. As Radius Telemed includes HRH in the text messages—which in this case served as the initial response to the COVID-19 patient—the concern was that patients may feel obligated to pay Radius Telemed for its miscellaneous services as part of their treatment for the positive diagnosis.
“That is not activity that HRH is associated with,” said Ron Simoncini, a spokesman for HRH. “The business arrangement reviewed on the [text] thread incorrectly associates us with the billing of third parties.”
Hudson County was also unaware of Radius Telemed’s activities.
“Apparently the private telemedicine group that delivers test results did this on their own,” said James Kennelly, spokesman for the County. “They have been advised to stop and only provide the results to testing participants.”
Given the ongoing severity of the COVID-19 impact on our region, the importance of testing cannot be overstated. Symptomatic Hudson County residents are highly encouraged to seek the medical attention they need—whether it be at the County’s COVID-19 testing center at Hudson Regional Hospital, or at testing centers established in a number of municipalities countywide.
As the testing continues to be streamlined, patients should now have a clearer directive from the facility on what to expect moving forward. Nevertheless, if patients are confused by the response they get, they should ask questions—particularly if they are prompted to pay for services connected to those results.
UPDATE (11:30 a.m.): Hudson Regional Health has responded to our story, clarifying their relationship with Radius Telemed, and the services provided by the firm:
Hudson Regional Hospital has engaged Radius Health to report test results at no charge to patients who were tested at Hudson Regional. A benefit of aligning with Radius on this is that for patients who are not otherwise under the care of a doctor, Radius can treat them telemedically as a healthcare provider. There are many other similar services emerging during COVID-19 that keep sick people home, which contains the spread of the virus and offers them an effective means of receiving medical care. As with any other physician or practice these patients might visit, whether it be conventional or through telemedicine, there can be a cost to additional care and prescription medications.