SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — Tenet Health Central Coast has a new option for patients unsure whether to come to the emergency room — Tele-ER. This option allows anyone to talk to a board-certified Emergency Room physician 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“This is a significant achievement in providing patient-first care in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tenet Health Central Coast, Chief Executive Officer Mark Lisa. “Tele-ER provides another solution for families and front-line healthcare workers, in addition to our hospitals’ separate COVID Safe and COVID Care zones. This is one more way we’re working to keep hospitals operating as efficiently as possible in a rapidly changing environment.”

Patients who may be uncertain whether to seek treatment — either due to suspected COVID-19 or other emergent medical conditions — no longer have to make the decision alone, thanks to Tele-ER.

“This helps address a tremendous challenge during these times: across the country, we have seen patients delay care due to concerns about going to hospitals and, unfortunately, that has life-altering consequences,” said Brad Knox, MD, Director of Emergency Services at Tenet Health’s Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, San Luis Obispo’s only designated Trauma Center.


Cinnamon Redd, MD, the Director of Emergency Services at Twin Cities Community Hospital, which is the county’s busiest Emergency Department, adds, “the great advantage of Tele-ER is that it provides immediate access for patients and, many times, we will have already seen them virtually if they need to come in-person to the Emergency Department.”

Patients can access Tele-ER by calling 805-546-7990 at any hour of the day or night. They will connect with a Tenet Tele-ER staff member to register and get started with a secure, private, and individualized ER evaluation. All the patient needs is an internet-connected smartphone, tablet, or computer, with a functioning camera.

Due to the need for healthcare options in the face of COVID-19, Medicare now covers Tele-ER visits. The virtual visit cost is typically $20 for Medicare patients, which does not include any follow-up in-person care needed. Tele-ER may be eligible for reimbursement from other insurance providers.

If a patient requires in-person care, diagnostic procedures, or lab tests, they will be asked to come into the hospital. Tele-ER is an evaluation tool for patients seeking emergent care and is not a substitute for calling 9-1-1. If a person’s condition worsens quickly or requires immediate attention, they will be directed to hang up and call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency Department.

“Peace of mind is an important part of a sound body, and providing our Tele-ER option is yet another way Tenet Health Central Coast helps reinforce the community’s confidence in accessing safe and high-quality care in our hospitals and via virtual visits, whichever is most appropriate,” said Lisa.