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Telemedicine Triage to Lower ER Overcrowding

December 20, 2017

You have an incident where you're aware that an emergency room trip is in order but the thought of sitting in an overcrowded waiting room is so unappealing, you’d actually rather suffer. There is one hospital in Florida that will tell the ER wait time on a giant highway billboard, which seems to be a step in the right direction. But, the concept of telemedicine triage seems to be a more productive and efficient step that eight hospitals have begun implementing this method.

EmOpti, a Wisconsin-based startup, is a virtual visit option that can be found in Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care, MedStar in D.C., Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia, and Charlotte, North Carolina’s Carolina HealthCare.

Patients come to the ER but, if it is too crowded, they go to a remote command center where, via videoconferencing, they are examined by a doctor or physician’s assistant. On-site triage nurses assist in the process and can order the necessary tests or medications, if need be.

“It’s a change in how you triage patients,” Paul Coogan, president of emergency services at Aurora, which has three hospitals using the telemedicine service, told Xconomy. “There was initially some resistance. The nurses thought it was going to add a lot of time to triage. [But] I think they appreciate having some extra help.”

The overabundance of people who come to the ER can heavily outweigh what the staff can handle and that is why this telemedicine triage is a game changer. Between 1995 to 2010, the amount of visits to the ER went from 97 million to 130 million. Unfortunately, the number of ERs went down by 11 percent. Now, the time waiting in an ER has dropped thanks to EmOpti; the three Aurora hospitals have seen stays drop by 45 minutes.

“We’re able to put this in front of a patient within 10 minutes,” Mike Rodgers, the health system’s director of strategic innovation, told Xconomy. “We ask patients for feedback and have so many quotes. [They say], ‘I’m going to come back here because I actually see a doctor.’”

Would you be willing to see a doctor via video?

Edited by Erik Linask

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