Though it is common for people to assume that telehealth consists of nothing more than video chats between doctors and patients, the telehealth concept has grown far beyond such simple explanations. Thanks to evolving technology and the willingness to adopt new strategies, telehealth is improving every facet of medicine – including emergency medicine.
Believe it or not, deploying telehealth technologies can improve ER delivery. Companies like San Antonio-based CSI Health are leading the charge, designing and deploying a variety of telehealth solutions that are making ERs more efficient, more effective, and more productive.
If you work in the ER, you know that triage is the practice of evaluating patients as they come in to determine how serious their conditions are and what they are likely to need in terms of treatment. Triage can be time-consuming using traditional strategies. Telehealth can cut down on triage time and increase ER efficiency.
Telehealth triage can be conducted in an isolated location as patients enter the hospital. But it can also be conducted remotely. CSI Health’s X-1 Mobile Unit is a compact and portable telehealth kit that includes on-board diagnostics. It could easily be deployed for remote triage by local fire departments and ambulance services.
Telehealth Emergency Care
Telehealth can also improve ER delivery by facilitating remote care. This particular benefit is well-suited to rural hospitals whose ER units are not always fully staffed. By connecting that rural hospital with a larger metro hospital via telehealth, you help the smaller hospital provide better care through virtual assistance provided by the larger hospital.
Imagine a rural patient visiting a smaller, local hospital due to a mysterious illness the lone ER doctor at that hospital has never seen before. Consulting with a specialist located hundreds or even thousands of miles away is possible via telehealth. The consultation could very well save the patient’s life.
The thing about telehealth is that patient and doctor do not have to be far apart to make it work. Telehealth works equally well inside a confined hospital space. In the ER, consider the possibility of telehealth facilitating virtual rounds.
Telehealth terminals installed in each ER room offer the opportunity for doctors to conduct virtual rounds rather than continually making the circuit from room to room. The same technology can be utilized to consult with a patient’s family when they cannot be at the hospital.
Finally, patients are not necessarily out of the woods when they leave the ER. In many cases, ER visits require timely follow-up. This is yet another opportunity for ER departments to utilize telemedicine to improve productivity.
Follow-up visits can be conducted virtually when circumstances warrant. Doing so saves time for both physician and patient. Virtual follow-up eliminates patient commutes. It reduces patient no-shows. It allows both patients and doctors to maximize their time.
Time to Think Outside the Box
No doubt there are healthcare administrators and ER managers that may never see their way clear to implementing telehealth for emergency medicine. But for those with an open mind, it is time to start thinking outside the box. Traditional strategies have served us well, but times are changing.
We can do some amazing things with technology. Closing off emergency medicine to the possibilities doesn’t serve hospitals or patients well. Opening up to technology and its potential to improve healthcare delivery does.
Telehealth is making huge strides in modern healthcare. As other areas of healthcare embrace it, the emergency department should not be left behind. Telehealth can improve healthcare delivery in the ER if it is used willingly and with an eye on maximizing its potential.