– A Georgia health system is launching a telehealth program aimed at putting its providers at the scene of emergency calls to help treat patients before they reach the hospital.
Emory Healthcare is partnering with Grady EMS on the Emory Rural Tele-EMS Network (ER-TEMS), which aims to improve care coordination and management in 14 rural counties in the southern part of the state. The program is funded by a four-year $1.2 million grant from the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
ER-TEMS incorporates concepts from the Mobile Integrated Health (MIH) sandbox, pairing telemedicine and EMS services to provide care to people in emergencies or who frequently use the 911 system to access care. In this case, the program is designed to give first responders virtual access to Emory providers to help assess and treat patients at the scene.
“Telehealth hasn’t been used much in the pre-hospital environment – that’s even more true in rural areas, where it has tremendous promise,” Michael Carr, MD, ER-TEMS’ project director and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University’s School of Medicine, said in an Emory press release. “We know that early intervention saves lives. In rural Georgia, long distances required to reach a hospital contribute to worse medical outcomes in time-sensitive critical conditions like strokes, heart attacks, trauma and complications during childbirth. This network aims to reduce those disparities.”
The program is designed to give EMS crews support in cases where access to ER physicians or specialists is critical. Through a virtual link, the Atlanta-based Emory care provider can work with the EMS crew or call in specialists from the health system.
The platform also enables providers at Emory to look at data from mHealth devices and the patient’s medical record.
“EMS personnel can focus their attention on patient care while the Emory emergency provider coordinates with the receiving hospital about the incoming patient’s arrival and any treatment plans that have been initiated,” the press release points out.
MIH programs like this not only have the potential to improve outcomes in critical care patients by speeding up access to care, but they can help first responders triage patients, potentially diverting them from an expensive and unnecessary transport to the ED to more appropriate care.
In some communities, local health systems are partnering with EMS and ambulance providers on MIH programs that focus on community paramedicine. In those instances, the health system sends a specially trained EMS crew out to the homes of patients identified as high-risk, or frequent users of the 911 system. The idea there is provide care, including health and wellness resources, to patients before they become sick, and to help them toward a healthier lifestyle.
Emory’s ER-TEMS program launched this week in Randolph County, and will cover residents in Baldwin, Ben Hill, Brooks, Clay, Cook, Decatur, Hancock, McIntosh, Mitchell, Pierce, Quitman, Seminole and Worth counties. The program will be run through roughly 30 ambulances in those areas, and will be coordinated through some 18 partner hospitals.
“The Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University’s vision is to create new models of acute care that are patient focused and provide more equitable access to quality health care through Emergency Medicine’s innovation center, Health DesignED,” David Wright, MD, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Emory University’s School of Medicine, said in the press release.