Emergency rooms could benefit from better healthcare IT
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Emergency rooms could benefit from better healthcare IT

In today's healthcare IT landscape, the use of telemedicine solutions is becoming more important than ever before. With the use of advanced monitoring systems and video conferencing tools, hospitals may be able to give better care even to patients who live far away from a major medical facility or suffer from conditions that limit their mobility. However, these aren't the only uses for these technologies. In fact, some healthcare providers are experimenting with ways telemedicine could boost quality of care even further.

Quicker assistance
UC San Diego Health System recently announced that it is launching a pilot study to determine whether emergency departments (EDs) may benefit from wider implementation of telemedicine. Over-crowding is a significant issue in many of the country's EDs, and when hospitals are too overwhelmed to see all patients in a timely manner, their outcomes can be compromised. The study will hopefully determine if deploying the advanced healthcare IT solutions will reduce wait times and, in the process, allow doctors to treat each individual in order of priority.

During the course of the research, called Emergency Department Telemedicine Initiative to Rapidly Accommodate in Times of Emergency (EDTITRATE), the UC San Diego Health System will supplement on-site staff with on-call telemedicine doctors. When the ED becomes busy, these offsite physicians will see patients with the help of high fidelity sound and video systems, which will allow basic examinations to be performed remotely. Additionally, further tests can be ordered and pertinent information can be recorded in a person's electronic health record.

Telemedicine technologies will not, however, take the place of face-to-face medical care. After patients have been seen by the offsite care provider, he or she will be seen in person by an attending physician to confirm findings and answer questions. 

Additionally, this study could prove useful for smaller healthcare organizations. Facilities with restrictive budgets must be especially careful to balance their staffing efforts with demands from patients, and this can be a difficult balancing act to perform.

"Working in an emergency department open around the clock, you never know who may come through the door, so you are constantly faced with the challenge of matching staffing resources with the demands for care," said David Guss, the principal investigator and chair of the department of emergency medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Some emergency departments have placed a physician in the triage area to expedite care, however, if there is low demand for service during these times, an underutilized physician creates an unneeded expense."

FierceGovermentIT reported that the Census Bureau recently confirmed that telemedicine tools are currently being used for more than just serving rural populations and individuals with mobility challenges. In fact, a recent study discovered that Internet users living in urban areas are twice as likely to have utilized telemedicine resources as those living in more remote locations (8 percent compared to 4 percent, respectively).

With the help of IT planning experts, quality assurance consulting services and more, it may be possible for hospitals to find new ways to serve many different kinds of patients. This support will help organizations make the most of all investments in emerging healthcare IT solutions.