Emergency Telemedicine Poised to Grow in Pandemic’s New Phase

Date: May 25, 2022

Emergency telemedicine poised to grow in pandemic’s new phase

Emergency medicine is likely not the first specialty that comes to mind when thinking about the clinical areas that can benefit greatly from telehealth. But this digitally enabled mode of health care delivery that took off at the pandemic’s onset was helping in the emergency medicine setting before COVID-19 and will only continue to grow.

An American Medical Association (AMA) Telehealth Immersion Program event co-hosted with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) provided an overview of the innovative ways telemedicine is being used in emergency settings and discussed how telehealth can continue to help physicians provide better care for patients.

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, said Aditi U. Joshi, MD, chair of ACEP’s telehealth section. That includes the kind of asynchronous care that can be part of telehealth.

Triage involves determining which kind of care presenting patients require. “Can they stay at home, do they need to go to an urgent care, primary care, or do they need to come into the emergency department?” she said. “We are uniquely skilled in that.”

Telestroke was another form of telehealth in use before the COVID-19 pandemic, and telehealth was in use at freestanding emergency departments and urgent care centers. And here are a few ways that virtual care is poised to continue to grow:

  • Triage. This can include, for example, talking to the emergency medical services unit on the way to the hospital, long-term acute care (LTAC) triage, and telemedicine screening exams.
  • Direct, acute unscheduled care. For example, virtual urgent care, Emergency Department (ED) consults to help with things such as transfer stabilization treatment advice, LTAC, correctional medicine, or skilled nursing facility consults.
  • Virtual (out of ED) observation. For example, post-ED follow-up visits, remote home monitoring, and hospital at home.

The AMA helps guide physicians, practices, and health systems in optimizing and sustaining telehealth at their organizations through the AMA Telehealth Immersion Program. The program builds on The Telehealth Initiative and is part of the AMA STEPS Forward® Innovation Academy, which enables physicians to learn from peers and experts and discover ways to implement time-saving practice innovation strategies.