By Annie Rubinson–
Especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, long treks to doctors’ appointments can be challenging. In response, Phelps Hospital Northwell in Sleepy Hollow launched the Spine Institute in early August to help localize opportunities for treatment in Westchester.
Dr. Danilo Silva, Director of Neurosurgery and leader of the new Spine Institute at Phelps, completed his neurosurgery training in Brazil – only to redo it upon his arrival to the United States in 2011, engaging in several years of research and fellowship training. “It allowed me to experience how the healthcare system in the United States works, and how to best treat my patients,” he said.
The Spine Institute at Phelps Hospital Northwell was designed as an extension of the program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. It brings together a series of back and neck pain specialists, from neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons to physical therapists and pain medication specialists. “It’s like a Stop & Shop of doctors,” Silva said.
This variety allows the Institute to prioritize providing the most timely and productive access to care possible. “The patients come to see whatever doctor suits their needs, not necessarily a spine surgeon first, and we are usually able to provide an appointment within 24 to 48 hours of the request,” he explained, including that only 10 to 15 percent of patients with spine pain end up needing surgery.
The Spine Institute also makes use of various digital platforms as a means of increasing accessibility to care. In addition to providing telemedicine consultations for patients who do not want to come to the hospital (an option that 30 to 40 percent of patients utilize), the hospital has also invested in Playback Health, an app designed to improve and personalize remote interactions between patients and physicians. Silva elaborated, “We can send videos, updates, MRI results, and, by doing that we keep in close contact with our patients even during the pandemic.”
Even in the short time it has been running, Silva said the program has generated positive responses from patients. He said, “In healthcare today, if you want to have a successful program, you have to be available for patients whenever we need. We have gotten really good feedback because of this.” He added that he hopes the hospital will continue to be able provide such efficient service, even if the volume of requests for care increases as the pandemic eventually dies down.
He concluded, “It’s been a blessing to be with Northwell and to bring excellent healthcare here to Westchester.”