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Best practice guide

Telehealth for emergency departments
For providers Best practice guides Telehealth for emergency departments

Getting started with telehealth for emergency departments

Telehealth technology in the emergency department can help expand quality of care to more people through increased access to medical specialists and protect providers and patients.

Telehealth can help emergency departments

  • Reduce exposure to COVID-19 and keep patients and providers safe
  • Preserve valuable personal protective equipment
  • Expand quality care to rural and underserved areas

Consider integrating telehealth at key points of interaction

  • Before patients go to the emergency department
  • As a triage point upon entering the emergency department
  • Once patients are receiving care in the emergency department
  • As a collaboration point between providers
  • For follow-up care once released and to help prevent unnecessary return visits

Although telehealth technology in the emergency department provides many benefits — especially during public health emergencies — it’s not a replacement for in-person care. Make sure to research your options for providing care to understand their impact.

Setting up telehealth for your emergency department

When looking to start or expand telehealth services in your emergency department, it’s important to think about technology, staff, and processes. Consider the following:

  • Determine what services your patients need and consider the community you serve.
  • Define your current biggest service gaps and the problems you want to solve.
  • Investigate which telehealth models will best serve your needs, starting with the ones included in this guide.
  • Determine if your locations have adequate internet bandwidth.
  • Figure out what types of IT infrastructure and maintenance you will need, as it can be a big investment.
  • Determine your state licensure requirements.
  • Figure out billing requirements.
  • Find out what resources you will have — especially project coordinators and IT specialists.
  • Start small — introduce one new service at a time, practice, and test it out with a small group of staff.
  • Establish a strong relationship between all providers and staff who will be involved in new telehealth services to ensure strong communication, collaboration, buy-in, and to build trust.
  • Work to understand the limitations of your model and plan for ways to address potential issues. Develop your telehealth strategy, evaluation, and sustainability plan.
  • Create a marketing strategy for your telehealth services.

Tip: For help understanding what it’s like to set up and run a new telehealth program, talk to or shadow an existing program which has already adopted the model you’re interested in. Contact the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers exit disclaimer icon  for guidance.

More information on how to get started:

Last updated: February 9, 2021