Emergency department telehealth program reduces wait time by 6 minutes

Patients in rural hospitals using telehealth services were seen by a provider six minutes faster than patients without telehealth, according to a study conducted by the University of Iowa.

In this study, researchers evaluated the impact an emergency department (ED)-based telemedicine program could have on ED wait times in rural hospitals. Factors of door-to-provider time, ED length-of-stay and time-to-transfer were included.

Of the 127,928 eligible ED encounters collected from patients from 14 rural hospitals, with 2,857 using the telehealth program who were matched with a control group counterpart. Results showed the door-to-provider time was six minutes faster in patients using the telehealth program. In 47.1 percent of telehealth encounters, the first person to see the patient was a telehealth provider who arrived 14.7 minutes before local providers. Additionally, ED length-of-stay was longer for telehealth patients, but the ED length-of-stay for transfer patients was 22.1 minutes shorter.

“Telemedicine decreases ED door-to-provider time, most commonly because the telemedicine provider was the first provider seeing a patient,” concluded first author Nicholas M. Mohr, MD, MS, and colleagues. “Among transferred patients, ED LOS at the first hospital was shorter in patients who had telemedicine consulted. Future work will focus on the clinical impact of more timely rural ED care.”