Telehealth could reduce the amount of unnecessary ED visits

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Implementation of telehealth services could decrease the amount of unnecessary emergency department (ED) transfers, according to a study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The study evaluated the transfer of patients to other EDs to identify the factors associated with being discharged without procedures, admission or observation. Data from the 2011 Healthcare Utilization Project State Emergency Department and six state inpatient databases covering patients with injury diagnosis codes transferred between two EDs were included.

A total of 48,160 ED-to-ED injury transfers occurred. Of these transfers, 49 percent were sent to non-trauma centers, including 23 percent with major trauma. Some 22,011 transfers were placed at a higher care level, 36 percent of which were discharged without procedures. Discharge for patients was more likely if the patient had soft tissue, head, facial or hand injuries.

Results showed that the average cost of treatment at a receiving ED was measured at $2,859. This cost of transferring patients could be reduced if telemedicine was implemented.

“Over a third of patients transferred to another ED for traumatic injury are discharged from the second ED without admission, observation, or procedures,” concluded first author Laura N. Medford-Davis, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine. “Telemedicine consultation with sub-specialists might reduce some of these transfers.”