Hospital emergency departments (EDs) face continued pressure to reduce utilization in order to lower costs, reduce wait times, and deliver better patient service.  Reduced ED visits are also part of some population health and value-based care initiatives, which seek to drive results-based fee structures, in lieu of traditional fee-for-service models.

Integrating telehealth into emergency department services could impact hospitals, physicians, and patients positively.

Financial Benefits

Hospitals may be able to reduce their on-site staffing costs by leveraging local, regional, or even nationwide physicians with telehealth capabilities.  Likewise, those telehealth physicians may be able to increase their revenue by taking on additional tele-emergency shifts and making effective use of down time.

Reduced Wait Times

By using telehealth-enabled physicians, hospitals may be able to reduce wait times because they will not be limited by on-premises physicians.  Theoretically, the greater the use of telehealth, the greater the reduction in wait times.

Appropriate Care

The use of telehealth to deliver ED services does not mean there will never be on-premises staff to handle more serious cases and those that require immediate attention.  For others, however, telehealth can enable effective diagnosis to determine appropriate treatment, including whether patients should be admitted or released.  Other connected health technologies that enable patient information sharing and physician collaboration can aid telehealth physicians in delivering emergency department services.

Work-life Balance

The ability to treat ED patients through telehealth can help preserve work-life balance for a physician community that has a relatively high burnout rate.  The ability to have greater scheduling flexibility, take emergency department shifts from more convenient locations using telehealth, and reduce commuting time and costs can reduce stress and increase physician morale.

Physician Recruitment

Telehealth-enabled hospitals may find it easier to recruit physicians, due to the several benefits such services offer.  Doctors are able to spend more time helping patients in need, reduce stress from better work-life balance, the convenience of telehealth, and the potential to increase revenue.

While not all emergency department cases can be handled using telehealth, the percentage of cases that do not result in hospital admission may make telehealth a reasonable alternative to on-premises staff, providing benefits to healthcare providers without reducing the level of care to patients.

To find out more about how telehealth and other connected health services can help deliver quality outcomes, visit us here.

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