Emergency Medicine Telehealth has been a prominent buzzword for the last few years.
With the emergence of Covid-19 and a newfound respect for remote healthcare services, telehealth/telemedicine has been a large focus of healthcare organizations and physicians alike. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides a broad definition: “Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — lets your doctor provide care for you without an in-person office visit. Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.”
Within the realm of this definition, telehealth doesn’t exactly sound like something that the practice of emergency medicine (EM) would embrace, given that the very nature of EM entails high acuity, and critical care. Despite this paradox, however, EM as a specialty is slowly adapting in order to better utilize this transformative technology.
In fact, there are a variety of different telehealth modalities slowly being introduced into the world of EM. HHS breaks it into five different potential categories of use:
- Tele-Triage: using telehealth modalities to determine the acuity of a patient’s injuries and the care and resources required
- Tele-Emergency Care: “Tele-emergency medicine connects providers at a central hub emergency department to providers and patients at spoke hospitals (often small, remote, or rural) through video or similar telehealth technology.”
- Virtual Rounds: monitoring emergency department patients remotely, reducing the number of physical providers and physicians needed on-site
- E-Consults: providers and physicians can seek consultations or specialty management for patients
- Telehealth for Follow-Up Care: “Telehealth technology can also be used to provide follow-up care for patients who were triaged but not sent to the emergency department, or for patients after they are discharged from the emergency department.”
The American Medical Association recently published an article that corroborates this concept. Tanya Henry, Contributing News Writer for the AMA, explains that a recent AMA Telehealth Immersion Program in conjunction with American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) discussed innovative ways by which telemedicine can become a mainstream modality for emergency care. The article quotes the chair of ACEP’s telehealth section, Aditi Joshi, M.D.: “Emergency medicine doesn’t take place in one spot in the hospital and emergency physicians are trained to take care of emerging acute care situations in any setting,” including telehealth.
Congruently, training programs are gearing up to prepare for this. Take for example The George Washington University’s (GWU) Department of Emergency Medicine, which offers a Telemedicine & Digital Health Fellowship. The program’s purpose “is to develop future leaders in telemedicine and digital health […and…] enable physicians to develop clinical competence in the delivery of telemedicine, leadership in establishing new programs, basic technical knowledge of telehealth delivery, and experience in order to significantly impact the rapidly growing and changing field of telemedicine, telehealth, remote health monitoring, and mobile health.”
Thomas Jefferson University also offers something similar: the Telehealth Leadership Fellowship. This program’s core focus is four-fold: Leadership Skills Development, Entrepreneurship, Academia & Research, and Clinical Experience, all within the larger realm of telehealth.
Indeed, telehealth has already rapidly expanded into other medical specialties, including neurology, cardiology, and primary care settings. Notably, an important benefit of this new modality is that it enables access to care and access to trained medical professionals for otherwise underserved populations and communities. Assuredly, time will tell the significant impact that emergency medicine joining the ranks of potential uses of telehealth will undoubtedly have in the years to come.