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Doctor on screen observing a patient in an emergency department.

Telehealth for emergency departments

Introduction to telehealth practices for emergency departments

The COVID-19 public health emergency has required emergency departments across the country to quickly adopt or scale up telehealth and telemedicine services for their patients. This has helped reduce potential COVID-19 exposure, expand access to care, and address capacity challenges. With wider use, telehealth has the potential to have lasting impact on future emergency preparedness and typical day-to-day emergency and acute care.

Types of telehealth for emergency departments

Tele-triage is like traditional triage but uses technology to supplement or replace elements of the patient interaction. Tele-triage involves screening patients remotely to determine the patient's condition and the care needed.

Tele-emergency medicine connects providers at a central hub emergency department to providers and patients at spoke hospitals (often small, remote, or rural) through video or similar telehealth technology.

Telehealth technology can be used by health care providers to check on emergency department patients virtually. This helps limit the number of providers who are physically present and exposed to contagious diseases. It also saves time and conserves personal protective equipment.

E-consults help providers get recommendations from other providers with specialty expertise.

Telehealth technology can also be used to provide follow-up care for patients who were triaged but not sent to the emergency department, or for patients after they are discharged from the emergency department.