Using Telemedicine to Address Crowding in the ED
Some health systems are piloting telemedicine solutions in the ED to address crowding and decrease patient wait times. One new program, implemented at the Lisa Perry Emergency Center at New York Presbyterian (NYP) Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, involves offering low-acuity patients the option of visiting an off-site physician via telemedicine hookup. Administrators note that the approach can get patients in and out of the ED within 30 minutes, and patients have thus far been highly satisfied with the approach. However, an earlier telemedicine program piloted at the University of San Diego Health System’s (UCSD) Hillcrest Hospital in 2013 got bogged down due to administrative and insurance reimbursement hurdles, although the approach showed enough promise that there is interest in restarting the program.
- In the NYP program, patients are identified as appropriate candidates for the program at triage. They can opt to be seen remotely or through traditional means in the ED’s fast-track section.
- Administrators note that patients with complex problems requiring extensive workups are not suitable for the telemedicine approach.
- The most challenging aspect of implementing a successful telemedicine program in the ED is getting the workflows right, according to administrators.
- An earlier ED-based telemedicine program piloted at UCSD ran into difficulties because the model required the involvement of two physicians, and some insurers did not want to pay for the telemedicine visits. However, patients were receptive.
Early telemedicine pioneers see ED applications evolving as consumers demand greater access and convenience.
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