Telemedicine was well on its way to becoming mainstream prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the global health crisis certainly accelerated its trajectory and solidified its seat at the healthcare table. This intersection between technology and healthcare is here to stay. Today, consumers want immediate and convenient access to everything - [look at Amazon's growth over the last 5 years]. Virtual health delivery models allow you to receive medical care for a wide range of healthcare conditions and concerns. These online visits offer many benefits, including convenience, reduced costs, and greater access to care.
Healthcare is coming full circle - you see, six decades ago, doctors were regularly making house calls. Today, it's happening again, the optics and processes just look a little different. Why the rapid RE-adoption?? Home is where the health is, and a plethora of data/research suggests that patients recover faster in their own space. Given the recent pandemic, our homes, arguably more than ever, have become a sanctuary for safety, sustained health, and healing. It makes sense to implement care in the home, if the patients overall clinical condition supports it. I realize that sometimes the ED visit cannot be avoided due to the high acuity of the illness, life threatening trauma etc... However, a large subset of patients are better served in an alternative setting. This could include their home, urgent care, faith-based detox centers, or direct admission to a psychiatric facility.
Innovative minds and creative strategies surrounding telehealth are trickling into the EMS space as well. Ideas like this should be championed across the country as applications exists both in the urban/suburban interface and in the most rural unincorporated communities. Healthcare has to change and adapt - if COVID did anything positive, one could argue it put a magnifying glass on our ineffective and costly healthcare delivery models. The system is broken! One system flaw that telemedicine could help improve is that of ED overcrowding. The impact of ED overcrowding is well documented, but it continues to be largely underappreciated. The downstream effects on morbidity, mortality, medical error, staff burnout, and excessive costs are staggering. Full waiting rooms are both unsafe and violence prone.
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In you haven't implemented any form of telemedicine at your agency today, reflect back on your last 3-6 months of calls. What patients would you have liked to have this tool for? Could the patient's journey through the healthcare continuum have been more streamline? Telemedicine has its place in managing chronic health conditions, but several use cases exist for its application in emergency medicine too. Consider your most time sensitive emergencies like STEMI, Stroke, Sepsis. Real time consultation with a physician before you ever begin packaging the patient up for transport could save lots of myocardium and/or brain tissue. Those extra minutes on the front end have much greater implications on the back-end processes within the hospital. The beauty of telemedicine centers on its versality across varying arenas in medicine. For us, it can provide benefit whether we transport the patient to a receiving facility or we treat and release the patient from their living room. Technology isn't going anywhere. The future of healthcare is here now - let's embrace it as we become even better advocates for the patients we serve.
March 6, 2023
Author: Joshua Ishmael, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM, NRP
Pass with PASS, LLC.