Emergency department overcrowding continues to plague the healthcare system, negatively impacting the efficiency of medical centers, adding to the nation’s overall healthcare costs. In fact, 90% of emergency departments report routinely experiencing crowded conditions. In addition, when demand outweighs capacity, quality of care and physician morale and effectiveness can also suffer. The good news is 67% of emergency department visits are avoidable and could be treated through other means, which could save the $32 billion in healthcare costs.
Today’s healthcare providers, and their patients, have access to digital tools and use them on a daily basis. Providers also have access to connected health resources that leverage many of the same technologies and can be used to increase efficiency in emergency departments and help divert unnecessary admissions to alternate care options.
Here are some ways telehealth and connected health solutions can help emergency departments:
Telehealth in the Emergency Department
Telehealth can help emergency departments more effectively manage physicians’ time by reducing the time they need to spend with each patient without impacting quality of care. Nurses and other staff can provide initial care, then bring emergency department physicians in via telehealth to diagnose conditions and order blood draws, scans, or other actions, even before patients are brought to their rooms. Similarly, mobile telehealth solutions can give emergency responders access to emergency department doctors to provide on-site consultations for immediate advice – including whether emergency department visits are necessary or if other options are more appropriate. This not only can save time and costs for patients, but also for emergency responders who can be more quickly re-routed to other incidents if transport to a hospital isn’t required. When patients do need to go to the emergency department, on-site consultations can help emergency responders and emergency department teams prepare for admission, helping patients receive faster treatment.
Connected health solutions can help emergency departments track resources more effectively, reducing time to locate equipment and ensuring other items are stocked and available.
Home Emergency Care
Giving patients access to virtual emergency department consults in lieu of immediately heading to hospitals or urgent care clinics, they may be able to receive the advice they need and avoid unnecessary emergency department trips – or they may find out they really do need to get to the hospital. Either way, emergency departments receive fewer patients who can be treated otherwise and can focus on more acute emergencies, and both groups of patients may be able to receive faster and more appropriate care.
Falls are a significant risk, especially for older adults. Every year, some 36 million adults experience falls and, while 20% result in significant injuries, only about 8% receive treatment in emergency departments. Particularly for older people, getting immediate medical attention can make a significant difference in recovery time. Instead of emergency department visits, though, connected health can enable virtual consultations with emergency department physicians or even PCPs, who can advise whether an emergency department visit is needed or whether other care options are adequate.
Patients may require additional monitoring or consultations following their emergency department visits. Using remote patient monitoring to provide regular data to physicians can help reduce additional complications that could result in additional emergency department visits.
The cost difference in emergency care and regular office visits alone is a significant benefit to reducing the number of emergency department visits. But, the efficiency gains from reduced administrative workloads and physician time that is dedicated to non-emergencies could significantly improve operations within emergency departments and enable them to provide better care across the board. Connected health tools can be a driving force in improving emergency departments operations, while also helping reduce healthcare costs without impacting quality of care.