Ask HRC: Using Telemedicine to Meet with Patients before ED Visit

June 26, 2017 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​A Healthcare Risk Control (HRC) member asked for general information regarding the use of telemedicine to connect with patients before they come to the emergency department (ED). This approach uses telemedicine with potential ED patients to pre-register them, to collect data about their symptoms and some medical history, and to have them speak to a provider who can advise them to either come to the ED or to go to an urgent care center or physician's office.

In our research, we found that much of the available information focused on the use of telemedicine for patients who are already at the ED. However, there is an initiative in which the Houston (Texas) Fire Department used a telemedicine system to decrease unnecessary access of the ED. Once dispatched to the patient by 911 operators, Houston firefighters (who are also trained in emergency medical services EMS) used mobile devices to consult with a nurse at a call center to determine whether transfer to the ED was warranted, or if a different level of care was appropriate. The initiative is [described in...

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