When it comes to telehealth, countless specialties have already discovered how to apply its benefits. Neurology, oncology, radiology, and more have all found ways to integrate remote or hybrid healthcare into their practices. However, one specialty, in particular, is finding new applications in surprising ways: emergency medicine.
While it may seem like telehealth has no application in emergency medicine, that's not the case. Providers have found numerous valuable ways to utilize telehealth for improved patient care during medical emergencies, and we're here to share their methods.
Telehealth in a Pandemic
The most prevalent use of telehealth in emergency medicine is to care for patients during the pandemic. After all, the COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted the growth of telemedicine, and providers have yet to stop using it. During the pandemic, the world was in a crisis. Millions of people were testing positive for COVID-19 while hospitals and clinics struggled under the weight of a high influx of patients and a limited workforce of doctors.
Whether patients needed care for COVID-19 itself, or other emergency services, the risk of exposure made getting care extremely difficult. Particularly for immunocompromised patients, it was a gamble of which was worse: going to the doctor and risking exposure or not going to the doctor at all.
Fortunately, developments in telehealth services made it possible for patients to get care during the pandemic without risking increased exposure to the virus. Patients could meet with their providers remotely, ensuring proper care without any additional dangers to their health.
So, how does telehealth help regarding emergency medicine? Well, the pandemic definitely constitutes an emergency, but that's only a fraction of the emergency cases doctors must address each day. In addition to safely connecting patients and providers during a pandemic, telehealth can serve patients during a personal health emergency as well.
When a patient requires emergency care, they are triaged upon entering the hospital or clinic. This is where doctors determine the emergency's priority and collect patient information and symptoms. With tele-triage, doctors can conduct these procedures remotely, expediting the emergency triage process.
Telehealth services can provide emergency medicine specialists with technology to supplement certain aspects of triage. While remote, physicians can screen patients to make a telediagnosis and determine the care needed. If a patient is clearly in distress, they can begin preparing for their arrival.
When it comes to emergency medicine, there is no such thing as a scheduled appointment. Consequently, doctors have little time to prepare for the patients that come in and must act fast. Often there isn't enough time for providers to collect the necessary patient medical history to ensure accurate care. That is, until telehealth entered the picture.
Within a telehealth platform, all of a patient's medical images, EHRs, and relevant information are stored in one centralized, online platform. If a patient is already a user, physicians can easily find their case files and have all of the information they need in seconds - before they even enter the hospital. Consequently, the second the patient enters the hospital, physicians are already aware of their medical history and symptoms, enabling faster and more accurate care.
On the other hand, tele-triage can be used to determine if a patient requires in-person emergency care at all. Before coming to the hospital, physicians can meet with the patient remotely and determine if emergency care is necessary. If not, providers can save patients from unnecessary visits, helping healthcare practices allocate their resources more efficiently. If a patient can address a problem at home or with a primary care doctor, physicians can focus their time and resources on emergent cases.
Remote Monitoring via Telehealth
Telehealth can also enable remote monitoring through the use of wearable devices. While these devices are often used to track steps or similar activity, they can also be used for diagnosed health conditions such as heart problems or diabetes.
The device will remotely monitor patients' health and automatically report data to their provider. If a patient's health is taking a turn for the worse, the device will alert emergency services and ensure that the patient receives timely care.
Wearable devices are also highly beneficial for elderly or disabled patients. If a patient falls or injures themselves and cannot get up, the device can be used to alert emergency services. Consequently, patients' health is continuously monitored, ensuring care is on standby.
An often overlooked aspect of emergency medicine is follow-up. After an emergency, many patients require follow-up care after being discharged. For example, if a patient has a heart attack, they may require a few days of monitoring before being discharged. Still, after discharge, patients must recover at home and likely meet with their provider for a follow-up.
Telehealth allows patients to receive this follow-up care from the comfort of their homes while they recover. In the case of a heart attack patient, the patient can avoid tedious in-person follow-up visits and instead meet with their provider from the comfort of their home. This allows patients to focus on healing while still ensuring that they are recovering. As this is significantly more convenient, patients are much more likely to return to these appointments and consequently, experience better outcomes.
Telehealth in Emergency Medicine
While emergency medicine may not be the first specialty that comes to mind when thinking of telehealth, the two supplement each other well. Telehealth can significantly increase the accuracy and speed of an emergency health situation, drastically improving patient outcomes.
Through remote monitoring and tele-triage, providers can get the patient information they need before a patient even enters the hospital. With the foresight of a patient's medical history, providers can act faster and more accurately. Telehealth-enabled follow-ups also ensure that patients are cared for and attended to following a health emergency.
While telehealth may not be able to address medical emergencies in the traditional sense, expediting the before and after of an emergency will dramatically improve provider efficiency and, thus, patient outcomes.
Medicai is a telehealth platform that bridges the gap between patients and doctors. With in-the-cloud, real-time collaboration, Medicai can be applied to all specialties, drastically improving practice operations and the patient experience. If you're interested in learning more about Medicai, book a demo.