Telemedicine in Rural EDs: New Study Shows Potential

At first glance, it might seem 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 telemedicine. However, researchers are increasingly finding that it can help to reduce wait times in an environment where every second counts, including in rural hospitals. As Health Leaders MediaHealthcare Dive, and others first reported, a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Telemedicine and e-Health showed shorter emergency room wait times among patients who first had a telemedicine visit. “If we are talking about 15 minutes for a patient in a rural hospital, that can be important for patients who have certain very serious diseases,” the study’s lead author Dr. Nicholas Mohr, an emergency physician, professor, and researcher at the University of Iowa’s Rural Telehealth Research Center, told Health Leaders Media. “Especially in remote hospitals, that 15 minutes saved could change outcomes for patients with particular conditions.”

Mohr and his colleagues studied the results of more than 127,000 emergency department encounters in 14 rural Midwestern hospitals, including about 2,800 in which telemedicine was used. Comparing the telemedicine cases to control cases in which telemedicine was not used, the researchers found shorter wait times among the telemedicine cohort—by six minutes, to be precise. Among that cohort, those whose first encounter with a provider was via telemedicine experienced a 15-minute reduction in wait time before seeing a physician. Even patients who required transfer to other hospitals had shorter wait times than those who didn’t have a telemedicine consultation.

Notably, the Iowa study isn’t the first time telemedicine has been put to the test in the emergency department. Last year, we reported on the success that NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has experienced in reducing emergency room waiting times with its Express Care program at the hospital’s busy Weill Cornell Medical Center campus. That program gives patients, once they’ve gone through the standard triage process, 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.

Click here to read the Healthcare Dive article on the use of telemedicine in rural emergency departments. 

Click here to read the Health Leaders Media article on the use of telemedicine in rural emergency departments. 

Click here to read the Telemedicine and e-Health article (abstract only; full article requires payment) on the use of telemedicine in rural emergency departments.

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  1. […] Read more about the study and their findings here.  […]

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