Telehealth Can Help Cut Infections and Costs

An estimated 76% of U.S. hospitals have embraced the use of telehealth and other forms of technology to connect with their patients. The growing use of on-demand telehealth has led to an uptick in concerns among healthcare workers that this service will start reducing the number of in-person ER visits, thus impacting the bottom line of their healthcare networks. However, evidence suggests that emergency telehealth can benefit the ER and its network in many positive ways, such as by reducing rates of exposure to the flu and COVID-19 and reducing costs associated with personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

On-Demand Telehealth May Increase Patient Retention

On-demand telehealth can connect patients with appropriate care and specialists to help reduce the number of low-acuity cases that are frequently treated at the ER. Many studies have found that in the U.S., at least 30% of ER visits are non-urgent — meaning it is highly likely many of these visits could have been addressed more efficiently using telehealth.

Emergency telehealth can also help direct patients to the ER when virtual assessments conclude that additional care is needed, in which case patients can be referred to in-network providers. Therefore, telehealth should be viewed as an extension of your brick and mortar establishments and as a valuable complement to your existing healthcare services. 

Telehealth in the Emergency Room Can Reduce COVID-19 Exposure

COVID-19 shares many of the same symptoms as the flu and other serious illnesses — namely fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 25% of patients presenting to the ER exhibit these symptoms, and many test positive for COVID-19. Telehealth can help protect at-risk populations that have comorbidities, and it contributes to social distancing, which reduces rates of potential exposure to COVID-19 in the ER. 

Until a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, telehealth can also help with the diagnosis of this virus during the upcoming flu season and future peak seasons.

On-Demand Telehealth Can Reduce Costly PPE Usage

The use of face masks, gowns, gloves, and hair bonnets in the ER can become costly for healthcare networks given this PPE must be discarded after every visit with a COVID-19 patient. Many healthcare networks are continuing to struggle with PPE shortages, especially those in COVID-19 hotspots. Telehealth can help reduce PPE usage to offset shortages while also helping healthcare networks save money.

Telehealth Is an Efficient Follow-Up Resource for Patients

Patients with COVID-19 who shelter in place and practice social distancing can help reduce and minimize the spread of COVID-19 after they are diagnosed. On-demand telehealth allows patients and healthcare workers to follow up with one another from a safe distance to ensure further reduction of exposure to COVID-19. Telehealth sessions can also be used by healthcare workers to consult with patients on what they can expect to happen when they return to the hospital or ER.

Conclusion

Telehealth can reduce overall costs for your healthcare network and keep patients safe at home and out of the ER as we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This virtual service is also shown to improve safety for patients and healthcare workers and increase patient access to your other in-network services.

 

 

Resources:

https://www.aha.org/factsheet/telehealth

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4156292/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/telehealth.html

 

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