Viewpoint: How telemedicine may reshape emergency medicine 

The shift to a greater use of telemedicine during the pandemic presents a new opportunity to reduce reliance on, and subsequent overcrowding in, emergency rooms, according to Austin Frakt, PhD.

In a Nov. 23 op-ed for the New York Times, Dr. Frakt, who serves as director of the Partnered Evidence-Based Policy Resource Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System, explained that telemedicine may increase the ability of physicians to see more patients in a quicker time period.

"The potential payoff is large: A review of medical records of older patients found that 27 percent of emergency room visits could have been replaced with telemedicine," Dr. Frakt wrote, citing a 2013 study published in the Academy of Emergency Medicine journal.

More than 90 percent of EDs are routinely crowded, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. This overcrowding can lead to lower quality care and adverse health outcomes as well as increased costs, Dr. Frakt wrote.

"Once the pandemic fades, the momentum from telemedicine may continue, with the possibility of making progress on a problem that shouldn't wait," he concluded.


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