Telehealth in the ER?

At first glance, it seems like the hectic, fast-paced emergency room environment, with so many patients demanding immediate attention, might be a less-than-ideal fit for the use of telehealth. But as the Wall Street Journal‘s Sumathi Reddy highlights in a recent column, some busy hospitals are putting the technologies to the test in an effort to combat lengthy wait times. Reddy visited NewYork-Presbyterian Weil-Cornell Medical Center, a large academic medical center located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; since July of 2015, the hospital’s Express Care program has served as an option for patients who might ordinarily spend hours waiting to be seen and treated.

The program, Reddy notes, is “only offered to patients with minor injuries or complaints.” These typically include upper respiratory infections and rashes. Once they’ve gone through the standard triage process, patients have the option of receiving a remote consult in a private room from one of the hospital’s emergency physicians. Physician assistants or nurse practitioners are usually on hand to assist, and the high-quality equipment allows for a strong connection between the patient and the provider.

Per Reddy, Express Care has thus far gotten positive reviews from patients and providers alike. Further, it has indeed led to decreased ER wait times, along with less crowded conditions. To that end, Weill-Cornell soon plans to add a new pilot program for pediatric ER patients. What’s more, Reddy notes, hospitals from throughout the country are taking notice, making utilization of this model elsewhere likely. “Ten years from now, tele-emergency medicine will be the standard around the country,” Ali Raja, who serves as vice chair of the emergency department at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Reddy.

Reddy’s column is only the latest piece to highlight the applicability of telemedicine to settings that might at first not seem like an ideal fit. A recent Modern Healthcare case study, as CTeL and others reported, illustrated the ways in which telemedicine can be used to treat patients, particularly those in rural communities, requiring complex care.

Click here for the Wall Street Journal article on telehealth in the ER. 

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