Emergency Room Telemedicine

with 17 Comments

Is telemedicine beginning to take place of in-person doctors in emergency rooms? Not exactly, but here’s how the modern software can help.

“ED overcrowding increases patient risk and decreases patient satisfaction with emergency services,” Vaishal Tolia, MD, an emergency medicine physician at UC San Diego Health System. – A direct quote from Fierce Health IT.
Top problems in emergency departments that can be solved by telemedicine:

  • Overcrowding: More patients coming in than can be seen by on-site providers
  • Understaffed ERs: This issue goes hand-in-hand with the above problem. Understaffed emergency rooms tend to face more overcrowding.
  • Lack of specialists: Patients who need specialized care will face transfers or referrals. Specifically, patients seeking mental health care may wait more than the typical ER patient (though they may need care as urgently or more urgently than other patients), and oftentimes face unnecessary admission.
  • Transfer costs: Services not provided by the emergency room staff will need to be outsourced.
  • Referrals: Or, no on-the-spot solution. Patients may wait for healthcare and find that they may have to travel elsewhere to receive it.

And, according to propublica.org, the average waiting time in an emergency room is 24 minutes, with the longest average time in the District of Columbia, at 54 minutes.

Telemedicine can be utilized to help emergency room flow. With remote specialists, emergency room nurses and physicians can easily connect with a remote provider. After vitals have been taken, the patient can be assessed remotely with no compromise – specifically, in cases where a specialist may be needed.

Telemedicine in emergency rooms can bring prompt ROI, considering more patients can be seen in a shorter period of time. And, patient satisfaction is likely to increase.

More and more patients are becoming comfortable with telemedicine sessions. And, let’s face it: when in the ER, a patient is only looking for quick, quality healthcare. Where the care is coming from is not typically a consideration.


A few emergency room telemedicine success stories:

  • From Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: A telemedicine solution used by Avera ECARE has served more than 15,000 patients at 70 locations through two-way video interaction or transfer assistance. More than 850 sessions have resulted in an estimated $6.8 million in costs saved through avoided transfers.
  • From the American Telemedicine Association: The Christus St. Michael Health System emergency department introduced telemedicine to reduce life-threatening transports. A board certified neurologist who has been in private practice for more than 22 years, Dr. Samuels has worked with telemedicine for more than three years. “I’ve been on both sides of the situation,” Dr. Samuels says. “I’ve been a community neurologist and I know for emergency situations I can provide much more timely care as a teleneurologist than I can as a bedside neurologist.”
  • From the American Telemedicine Association: Virginia’s Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center, the largest hospital within the Bon Secours Hampton Roads health system introduced telemedicine to solve coverage challenges in the emergency department. Within the first 12 months of program implementation , Maryview experienced numerous benefits, including the following: $486,000 increase in contribution profit and a half-day decrease in the average length of stay for stroke patients.


How else can telemedicine help in emergency departments?

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    If telemedicine can help reduce waiting times in the ER then I am all for it. I especially like that it can be used to help treat serious cases more promptly. My wife has some medical issues and has been referred to a specialist more than once. Often it takes a week before actually seeing them. It would be awesome if we could have the meeting remotely within a few hours instead.

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