DIG IT AWARD WINNER: MOBILE
Leveraging telemedicine to avoid ER visits
- By Matt Leonard
- Oct 13, 2017
Ambulance rides can be costly for patients, service providers and local governments alike. That’s why officials in Houston decided to find a way to decrease the number of unnecessary trips.
The result was the Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation (ETHAN) Project.
“Project ETHAN was really born as an additional tool for our firefighters, EMTs and paramedics to try to address the growing problem of low-acuity calls in the 911 community,” said Dr. Michael Gonzalez, associate medical director of the Houston Fire Department/EMS Division, in a video describing the project.
First responders are now outfitted with Panasonic Toughpad tablets that allow them to collect information on patients and even initiate a video chat with an emergency physician who can provide medical advice and possibly avoid a costly, unnecessary trip to the emergency room. The physician can also help the patient schedule a doctor’s appointment for a later time instead.
The Toughpads handle the video chats via Cisco’s Jabber application, and they record the video chats as part of patients’ medical records.
Previously, 911 calls resulted in the patient being taken to an emergency room regardless of the necessity, which meant an ambulance was unavailable to respond to what might be more urgent calls. ETHAN can cut the time spent dealing with non-urgent cases by up to 50 percent.
According to Panasonic, ETHAN has avoided “unnecessary ambulance trips and ER visits in 80 percent of the cases it was utilized.”
Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.