Study: Telehealth program reduces unnecessary ED visits by 6.7%

A study in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare investigated the benefits of using telehealth in pre-hospital emergency medical services.

The researchers — led by James R. Langabeer of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston — identified 5,570 patients who were treated through a telehealth intervention. Through this intervention, 911 patients underwent a remote consultation with an EMS physician, who determined whether the patient needed to be transported to a hospital emergency department.

For patients with non-urgent conditions, the EMS physician scheduled alternative transportation to an affiliated primary care clinic, rather than providing all patients with ambulance transportation to an ED. This program led to a 6.7 percent reduction in potentially medically unnecessary ED visits and a 44-minute reduction in ambulance back-in-service times.

"Patient care enabled by telehealth in a pre-hospital environment is a more cost effective alternative to the traditional EMS 'treat and transport to ED' model," the researchers concluded. They also noted that the intervention led to $2,468 in cost savings per averted ED visit.

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