A new study from the University of Iowa found that patients were seen six times more quickly at rural hospitals using telemedicine in their emergency department than in hospitals without telemedicine.
The study also found length-of-stay at the ED was shorter for patients that had telemedicine care.
Dr. Nicholas Mohr an emergency physician and associate professor at the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, who was the lead author of the study, said patients went from the door to the providers 15 minutes faster if the first clinician assessment involved telemedicine.
ED-based telemedicine is used in many rural hospitals to offer “specialty care and expertise to patients with critical time-sensitive conditions,” according to the report. The study reviewed information from more than 120,000 encounters at 14 rural hospitals in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Telemedicine is often promoted as a way to help remote patients and areas with physician shortages, but this study showed that telemedicine can help in-hospital, too. Though telemedicine is seen as a way to help rural healthcare, recent actions in Washington may hamper greater utilization.
The loss of net neutrality has raised alarms that rural health systems might slow telemedicine in places that need it most. The fear is that rural providers won’t be able to handle the costs associated with priority broadband access and rural hospitals might fall behind subscriber-based video streaming services with broadband servers blocking content and implementing fast lanes for preferred customers.
Robert Annas, chief operating officer of Eagle Telemedicine and senior managing director at SOLIC Capital, recently told Healthcare Dive that access to internet service providers and bandwidth is a “has to” in healthcare. “Eliminating the net neutrality rules goes against the thought of reducing healthcare costs because reducing healthcare costs is done when you are in front of disease — not behind it," Annas said.