Telemedicine Practitioners as First-Responders
An interesting application of telemedicine is the use of medical providers acting with first responders. A study carried out at Portland State University found that nearly 75% of 911 calls were medical in nature. This is leading to a rapid change in the role of fire-fighters and more generally, first responders. Many times, first responders will bring patients to the emergency room by ambulance “just in case” so that they may be evaluated by a physician or medical provider. These scenarios are typically low-risk situations, yet paramedics and EMTs often do not want to risk making an incorrect clinical judgment. These trips to the ER for low-risk patients cost time, money, healthcare provider man-power, and occupy beds in emergency departments.
In certain situations (such as those “just in case” patients), incidents brought in by ambulance are inappropriate for the emergency department setting. On the other hand, there are circumstances where it would be appropriate for a patient to be brought in for a direct admission to the hospital. To help determine the appropriate course of action a recent solution involved first responders utilizing telemedicine practitioners to determine appropriate care. Having physicians speak with first responders to evaluate whether or not patients need to be transported to the ER may not only help save patients money, it could simultaneously decrease ER wait times by freeing up beds that would have previously be taken by patients brought in by ambulance. From a clinical viewpoint, certain patients can benefit from direct admission which allows them to start certain treatment regiments quickly and without having to enter through the emergency department.
Considering that upwards of seventy-five percent of 911 calls are medical in nature, a significant amount of time, money, and man-power could be saved by implementing a telemedicine model such as this on a broader scale.