Acute Care Telemedicine: What Is It?

Sick patient in video conference with doctor

Hospitals around the country are expanding their practices to incorporate acute care telemedicine. Medical care providers are partnering with telemedicine vendors in order to expand available services and improve upon services already offered. Below, our experienced telepsychiatry experts discuss acute care telemedicine and the benefits it provides.

What is Acute Care Telemedicine?

Acute care concerns short-term solutions to a sudden onset of an injury or illness. Acute care telemedicine refers to consultations conducted via telemedicine in a hospital or other emergency care setting for urgent medical care situations. Acute care telemedicine may involve a telepsychiatrist, a tele-neurologist, a tele-intensivist, or any other specialist operating from a remote location and teleconferencing in to consult on a patient.

Acute care is distinguished from routine, chronic, or long-term care. Acute care telemedicine is typically employed in hospitals, meant to support the hospital or health system’s treatment of patients, and is distinct from direct-to-consumer telemedicine.

What is the Purpose of Acute Care Telemedicine?

Acute care telemedicine serves the function of improving patient outcomes. It allows on-demand access to experts in any given medical field to treat sudden injuries or illnesses that may arise in an emergency setting. In many cases, a patient may present with a condition that no physician within physical proximity has the training to diagnose and treat on their own. With telemedicine, the hospital can easily connect with a highly qualified, licensed, board-certified specialist in whatever area is necessary to properly evaluate and care for the patient.

The specialist can interact directly with the patient using real-time audio and visual technology, review or share images and charts with on-site physicians, consult with on-site staff, and help make critical care decisions on the spot. Patients and physicians are not limited to care specialists who happen to be on-site at the time the patient arrives. Instead, they are afforded the option to consult with specialists from anywhere around the state and, depending on state licensing requirements, around the country.

Examples of Acute Care Telemedicine

Acute care telemedicine can be utilized in a variety of settings. For example, when a patient presents with a stroke, they may need consultation on a variety of issues. They cannot wait for the hospital to fly in a neurological specialist to examine the patient and start suggesting a course of treatment. Instead, via telemedicine, the hospital can send the CT scan images to a remote neurological specialist and conference them in within minutes to consult with on-site doctors, meet with the patient, meet with the patient’s family, and start recommending treatment options. The neurologist can recommend anti-blood-clotting drugs, surgery, or whatever else may be necessary, and the patient is not left waiting hours or days for a proper specialist to become available and make the trip to the local hospital.

Likewise, telepsychiatry can be utilized in acute care settings. Patients can present with psychological emergencies, but hospital emergency departments are rarely equipped to handle psychiatric, rather than physical, emergencies. In fact, more than half of all U.S. counties lack even a single psychiatrist. Patients may be left without consultation or treatment for days, which, depending on the nature of their condition, can prove fatal. Patients need fast access to psychiatric care specialists who can determine whether the patient should be admitted or discharged, which telemedicine can provide regardless of location.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of experienced, educated, and licensed psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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