Telemedicine in the Emergency Department Can Help Reduce Waiting and Improve Outcomes

July 15, 2013 | By More
 Telemedicine in the Emergency RoomA new pilot study will likely prove again that telemedicine saves time for both patients and emergency department staff and can help emergency medicine practitioners deal with certain deadly rashes.

Those of you who like sitting in a crowded Emergency Department waiting room and then once your name is called, hoping the doctor on duty can confidently identify that strange rash you have – raise your hand.  Uh-huh.  Thought so. Now, those of you who understand this post will be about telemedicine in the emergency room raise your hand.  Alright!

Many hospitals will now tell us online what the waiting time is in their emergency rooms.  That’s comforting?  Somehow knowing I will have to wait two or three hours to gain entry to the curtain-shielded examination area will be of importance to me if I have an urgent need (in my mind at least) for medical care?!?!?

The Crowds and the Study

Crowded emergency rooms are standard these days and have been for about 20 years, and don’t expect the situation to improve any time soon.  Too many people show up there for primary care because they’ve never taken the time to establish a medical home.  I’ll bet a lot of people don’t even know what a medical home is.  Many times, all they do know is that an emergency room is open 24/7/365, and that doctors must see them whether they can pay or not.

That’s why a San Diego pilot study involving the use of telemedicine in the emergency department is so intriguing.  They’ve set up some telemedicine equipment in the UC San Diego Health System’s ED so they can bring in doctors who are on-call, away from the hospital, to see patients in real time.  Right away, the doctor is as close as his laptop or desktop computer – not spending time letting the dog out to go do its duty first, or finding grandma to watch the kids, so he can then drive to the hospital to see the patient.  So, sure, that will save time for both the doctor and the patient.

The study is called “Emergency Department Telemedicine Initiative to Rapidly Accommodate in Times of Emergency,” or EDTITRATE.  If you show up during the daytime at an urban hospital, a dermatologist would likely be somewhere in or near the hospital.  If you have my run of luck though, that rash will begin worrying me at between 10pm and midnight.  And this is a serious rash.  And did you know that five to eight percent of the people who present at Emergency Departments complain of derm issues?  That’s been written about since 1994 in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

A Rash Decision

So when that rash seems to be exploding in size, you want the doctor to understand your problem and recognize it and know how to treat it.  If this should happen to you, I hope the physician has read “Deadly Rashes Not to Miss in the ED.”  There are seven, acutely deadly diseases, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  It shows up on the wrists or ankles before spreading to the palms and soles.  Or Neisseria Meningitis.  It too starts on the ankles and writes.  The names of these diseases keep getting longer.  Suffice it to say, that an emergency room telemedicine consult with a dermatologist at 2am would go a long way towards easing the patient’s mind and helping the doctor who works a couple of nights in the ED identify it – BECAUSE – each of the skin diseases has a high risk of mortality within 48 hours if left untreated.  And YIKES!  You know the rash started yesterday.

As a potential patient, yes, I’m concerned about the overcrowding, but I hope the staff on duty has the ability to contact the specialist I need to see.  Telemedicine appears to be the answer in both cases.

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Category: Telehealth Research

About the Author ()

Roger Downey is currently the Communications Manager for GlobalMed, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based telemedicine design, manufacturing and marketing firm. He is a broadcast news veteran, having worked as a News Anchor/Reporter for KPHO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, for 25 years. In 2004, he became the Media Relations Officer for the Arizona Medical Board, the regulatory agency for MDs in the state. In the spring of 2010 he transitioned to his current position. Roger is a Board Member of the Arizona Partnership Implementing Patient Safety (APIPS), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization composed of physicians, nurses, hospital and government agency representatives, pharmacists, and insurance carriers. He is also a member of the American Telemedicine Association Pediatric Special Interest Group. He is a member of the Silver Circle of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his 25 years in television.

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