Telemedicine rescues emergency rooms

Sep 8, 2015 / Telemedicine success /
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One area of medicine that has experienced significant time and cost savings of telemedicine, but has yet to see significant telemedicine adoption is emergency services. While it's true that many telemedicine technologies tend to be geared more toward consultation services and treatment management, the recent surge in services, software and hardware has opened up new doors for emergency medical practitioners to dive into telemedicine.

Emergency departments in drastic need of relief

It's no secret that emergency departments are almost constantly crowded. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals around the country see an average of 136.3 million emergency patients every year. Of these, only 27 percent are able to see a clinician within 15 minutes, making wait times a major issue, especially in crowded urban centers. 

As it turns out, another study from the CDC revealed that emergency room wait times may actually be increasing. Between 2003 and 2009, waiting times in emergency rooms across the country increased by 25 percent, with the average patient idling for nearly an hour before being seen. Not surprisingly, wait times were longer in urban hospitals than in rural ones, where the volume of emergency visits was higher in general.

Telemedicine to the rescue

This situation may soon experience relief in the form of telemedicine programs that aim to equip doctors, nurses and healthcare practitioners with the ability to treat patients remotely, even in an emergency setting, effectively increasing the availability of emergency care. 

One such telemedicine program making a significant impact is Avera eEmergency, servicing 86 hospitals in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. As noted by Avera eCare Services, the focus has been on bringing quality care to patients in rural communities. By using telemedicine technology, eEmergency services has treated more than 10,625 patients to-date and eliminated transfers for over 2,000 patients, saving more than $15.8 million in transfer costs.

In addition to the real-time access to medical specialists that is offered by telemedicine technology, emergency telemedicine physicians are also able to perform clinical exams remotely using telemedicine encounter management software and connected medical devices. This allows for even further extension of immediate quality care at the patient bedside.

"eEmergency services have eliminated transfers for 2,000 patients, saving more than $15.8 million."

Removing barriers

Despite the frantic and sometimes chaotic environment present in emergency departments, the majority of visits don't require extensive emergency care. In fact, according to the CDC, only 11.9 percent of the country's emergency room visits result in a hospital admission, and only 2.1 percent result in a patient being transferred to a different facility or doctor.

This makes emergency rooms a prime candidate for leveraging telemedicine technology to help address many of their patients' needs. Using remote hardware and a Web-based telemedicine encounter portal, hospitals can add on-call staff to the roster of available doctors who can respond to emergency medical situations. Thanks to real-time encounter-management software, video conferencing and remote medical technology, it's possible for emergency medical clinicians to consult with patients on a face-to-face basis, even if they aren't on-site.

For more information on telemedicine tools available, visit www.amdtelemedicine.com

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