MedStar Health research highlights the benefits of integrating telehealth into the Emergency Department workflow during COVID-19

As Emergency Departments (EDs) work to best address unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study recently published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine by a multidisciplinary MedStar Health team details how integrating telehealth into the ED workflow can reduce healthcare provider infection risk, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and ED length of stay (LOS), among other benefits. MedStar Health has now delivered more than 500,000 telehealth sessions during COVID-19, with ED teletriage contributing to this important milestone. 

The study, titled “Preliminary Assessment of a Telehealth Approach to Evaluating, Treating, and Discharging Low-Acuity Patients With Suspected COVID-19,” examined a novel telehealth-enabled, Evaluate-Treat-Disposition (ETD) workflow in the ED. In this workflow, in-person ED triage nursing staff presented well-appearing, low-risk patients with suspected COVID-19 infection to a remote provider for evaluation, consideration of testing, and possible discharge.  

Three weeks after implementation, a retroactive chart review showed that 153 of the 302 patients supported through telehealth were evaluated and discharged by a provider via telehealth. Results included:  

  • 62.5% shorter ED LOS compared to other patients of equal severity seen in the same time period 
  • 413 saved sets of PPE 
  • 3.9% 72-hour revisit rate (similar to rates for other patients)  

These results, shared by experts in emergency medicine, telehealth innovation, and human factors, can help inform similar efforts that strive to conserve critical resources and protect the health and safety of patients and providers. Additionally, the model allows quarantined providers who are otherwise well to continue treating patients via telehealth. 

Congratulations to the authors, who include: David J. Carlberg, MD; Rahul Bhat, MD; William O. Patterson, MD; Saad Zaatari, MD; Vinodh Chandra, MD; Alexander Kolkin, MD; Raj M. Ratwani, PhD; Matthew D. Wilson, MD; Diana Ladkany, MD; Katharine T. Adams; Mary Jackson, PA-C; Kristi Lysen-Hendershot; and Ethan A. Booker, MD. 

A follow-up study is expected and this preliminary research can be shared with interested groups in emergency medicine and health policy. 

Click here to review the full research study for free, with thanks to the journal for making that possible.