The Role of Telehealth in Bringing Orthopedic Specialists to the Coronavirus Outbreak Jason Pirozzolo, DO

Apr 09, 2020 at 02:05 pm by pj


Jason Pirozzolo, DO


Telehealth has been slowly integrating itself into the daily operations of primary care physicians over the past few years. It provides convenient, efficient, and cost-effective medical care. But until recently, the use of telehealth by orthopedic specialists was nearly non-existent. This was in part due to the regulatory landmines that physicians would have to tip-toe around, and when you got past the landmines, you had to deal with buggy and unreliable telehealth platforms to work on. Enter the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. On March 6, with one swoop of the pen, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law, which gave the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to temporarily waive certain Medicare requirements for telehealth services. This in turn, cleared those landmines and now allows physicians to utilize common everyday mobile apps like Facetime, WhatsApp, and Skype to evaluate and treat their patients.

What this means in the setting of a pandemic, is orthopedic specialists can now join the fight and help primary care physicians and hospitals to slow the spread of the virus, and eventually eradicate it. One of the first orthopedic practices to embrace telehealth was Orlando Hand Surgery Associates.

“Our ability to partner with primary care physicians and hospitals by allowing patients to be evaluated for any problem, shoulder to hand, from the convenience of their own home will drastically reduce the risk of exposure for our most vulnerable patients,” said Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, the Director of Sports Medicine and Trauma for Orlando Hand Surgery Associates.

Dr. Pirozzolo was appointed by Governor DeSantis in 2018 to his Health and Wellness Transition Committee. In that role he helped to curate the administration’s health care policy goals and participated in discussions that involved potential outbreaks, like coronavirus.

As more U.S. patients are diagnosed with coronavirus, health agencies have urged hospitals and providers to expand their use of telehealth, both within their facilities and to reach patients at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends using telehealth during the outbreak. The World Health Organization which designated the coronavirus as a global public health emergency in January, said healthcare organizations should consider using telehealth to minimize the use of personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

Telehealth has always been advertised as a powerful way of diverting patients from the Emergency Room, and now with the coronavirus pandemic it seems it has never been more important. The ability of this treatment modality as a supplement to ease the overburdened health care system is increasingly becoming crucial to the overall greater good of public health.

“Anything we as physicians can do to help reduce the spread of coronavirus by keeping them out of crowded waiting rooms, while still addressing their needs is something that we all should be doing,” Pirozzolo said. “Moreover, telehealth visits allow us to reallocate scarce medical supplies like masks and gowns so that those supplies can be directed to those patients in need.”

Dr. Pirozzolo has noticed an exponential increase in the volume of patients utilizing their telehealth service. “We can evaluate most conditions through video conferencing on Facetime or WhatsApp, and do everything from ordering MRI’s and nerve tests, to medications and physical therapy,” Pirozzolo said. “We can review X-rays and other imaging and even plan for a potential surgery if needed.”

Patients seem to love the telehealth option. “When Dr. Pirozzolo suggested a telemedicine visit, I didn’t really know what that was. When he explained that I could use the same Facetime app that I talk to my grandchildren with, I was excited!” said Rosa, a patient of Dr. Pirozzolo’s. “Now I don’t have to worry about exposing myself to the virus, not to mention that I normally drive two hours just to see him.”

In addition to Medicare, most commercial insurance carriers are following the same guidelines. In fact, many are waiving patients’ co-pays all together in order to make the telehealth visit even easier. The physicians at Orlando Hand Surgery Associates have even expanded their telehealth appointment slots to evenings and weekends to better serve patients.

Jason Pirozzolo, DO, CAQ, CSCS, is an Orlando-based physician, community leader, pilot, professor, and author. He is the Director of Sports Medicine and Trauma at Orlando Hand Surgery Associates. He earned his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University, and also completed a clinical externship in Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a residency in Family Medicine at Duke University, and a fellowship in Sports Medicine at the Ohio State University.

While at the Ohio State University and Duke University, Dr. Pirozzolo was part of the physician team dedicated to caring for the student-athletes' sports injuries and overall health. During that period, he also earned the certification as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. In 2005, his employment began as a physician at the Ohio State University Medical Center. The following year he became the Director of Sports Medicine at Florida Hospital Centra Care. Dr. Pirozzolo joined Orlando Hand Surgery Associates as Director of Sports Medicine and Trauma five years later where he now specializes in non-surgical orthopedic upper extremity problems.

For the past seven years, Dr. Pirozzolo has also been serving as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Florida State University College of Medicine. His distinguished work in the field of sports medicine has appeared in publications such as: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Clinics in Sports Medicine, and the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

As an active member of the Florida Medical Association, Dr. Pirozzolo is a member of the Board of Governors and serves as the Vice-chair of the Council on Legislation Board and is a member of the PAC Board. He was also appointed to the Executive Committee of the Florida Medical Association. In July 2014, he was elected to serve on the delegation to the American Medical Association, helping to represent all physicians in the state of Florida.

Dr. Pirozzolo is very involved with his community and has volunteered at Shepherd’s Hope Free Clinic since 2010. In 2012, he was accepted and later graduated from the Central Florida Political Leadership Institute.

In 2015, Dr. Pirozzolo co-founded the IP Network and serves as the Vice President. The IP Network is an integrated network of nearly 1100 physicians affiliated with high acuity urgent cares that is attempting to redefine the current healthcare system by utilizing proprietary technology to lower costs and improve quality.