A recent study from the University of Iowa shows that in rural emergency departments, patients who had ER telemedicine consults generally saw clinicians more quickly and had shorter lengths-of-stay at the emergency room before a hospital transfer than patients who did not have telemedicine consults. That 15-minute difference, said lead researcher Nicholas Mohr, MD, can be important for patients with certain serious diseases such as stroke, myocardial infarction, or severe trauma.
In the study, the researchers compared 2,857 emergency department cases from 14 hospitals that used telemedicine services against non-telemedicine control cases.
In cases where the patient needs to be transferred to a tertiary care facility, the telemedicine consultation enabled the patient to see a provider more quickly, which in turn allowed the transfer process to begin sooner—sending a helicopter, for instance, or having a receiving clinician help with the transfer. Over the course of the study, the consultation rate was 3.5 percent; only one out of 30 patients required a consult with the telemedicine provider, but that consultation was valued highly for its assistance with the transfer, documentation, or supervision of advanced practice providers.
Among rural hospitals such as the ones included in this study, telemedicine is viewed as a resource that brings tertiary care center expertise into remote emergency departments. As traditional barriers such as legislation, licensing, and broadband access begin to crumble, ER telemedicine is becoming more widely available to rural facilities.
Telemedicine is not the silver bullet that will solve healthcare access problems in rural regions, said Mohr, but he believes it is part of the solution and will continue to expand the scope of care.
To read more about the study, visit HealthLeaders here.