Study: Telemedicine Can Reduce Emergency Department Backlog, Wait Times

October 19th 2020
Sara Karlovitch, Assistant Editor
Sara Karlovitch, Assistant Editor

Investigators found that using telemedicine can improve patient experience.

Telemedicine can help limit the time spent in the emergency department (ED) and help hospitals with demand surges, according to a new study published in Information Systems Research.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has limited doctors’ offices and hospital visits to help ensure patient and care provider safety. Telemedicine can help bridge the gap rather than diminish the quality of care, according to the study. Additionally, overcrowding in EDs are a common problem in general, which can be costly for hospitals and impact patient experience.

Investigators looked at ED visits in New York from 2010 to 2014, comparing visits that utilized telemedicine versus those that did not.

Investigators found that telemedicine significantly reduces average length of stay. According to the study, this finding is partially driven by flexible resource allocation. Using telemedicine during ED surges can also reduce hospital stays and reduce patient wait times.

The majority (76%), of United States hospitals are already using telemedicine technologies.

"The current pandemic has shown hospitals the great promise of telemedicine application and hopefully the unexpected enrollment of such policies, alongside this research, can help get the process underway to help more health care facilities utilize this technology in [Eds] and elsewhere," study author Susan Lu, PhD said in a prepared statement.

"Policymakers can play a role as well by reducing regulatory barriers that inhibit more expansive use of telemedicine and by creating incentives that encourage hospitals to more broadly adopt telemedicine in emergency rooms,” said Lu.

Adopting telemedicine during ED surges would not increase costs, study authors say, nor would it increase the expense of care quality.

REFERENCE

Utilizing telemedicine in the ER can reduce wait times and patient length of stay [News Release] October 16, 2020; West Lafayette, Indiana. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/ifor-uti101620.php. Accessed October 19, 2020

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