Telemedicine Reduces ED Visits Among Senior Living Community Residents
Madison, Wisconsin - A three-and-a-half year study concludes that the use of “high-intensity” telemedicine at senior-living communities significantly reduces visits to emergency departments (ED).
The study is the first to evaluate telemedicine for older adults in a community setting. It was published online by Telemedicine and e-Health.
“Acute illness among senior-living community residents often leads to emergency department visits,” said Dr. Manish Shah, vice chair of research in the department of emergency medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “We found that these virtual doctors’ visits reduced the rate of emergency department use by 18 percent over the course of a year.”
Shah and his research team offered the option of high-intensity telemedicine to residents of six senior-living communities in Rochester, New York. High intensity means that the telemedicine visits were assisted by a clinical technician at the patient’s side using equipment found in an emergency department that allow physicians to perform detailed clinical exams.
The intervention group was compared with 16 senior-living communities that did not offer a telemedicine option. At the intervention sites, patients with acute illnesses were offered telephone consultations, outpatient visits, ED referrals or telemedicine consultations.
Patients were followed from May, 2010 to November, 2013. During that time, there were 479 patients in the intervention group who were provided care 503 times for illnesses. In 465 cases (90%), all services were delivered via telemedicine--no further immediate care, such as ED visits, were necessary. The study result that stood out was that the availability of telemedicine for acute illness care reduced the rate of ED use by 18 percent over the course of a year.
“We think that 18 percent is conservative,” said Shah. “We provided telemedicine services only during limited weekday hours. So intervention group subjects would have to go to the ED for care during weekends and evenings, reducing the effect on the rate of ED use compared with an always-available telemedicine model.”
Date Published: 09/11/2015