VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — When a call comes in and an ambulance goes out, sometimes the paramedics in the emergency vehicle are responding to someone’s worst day. But, many times, they are not and a trip to the hospital might not be necessary for a patient; which is where Telehealth has come into play.

“It is the next wave of our industry for sure being able to provide true community para-medicine to our patients and keep them at home if that’s what is best for them and still have those interactions with those physicians,” says Valatie Rescue Squad Operations Manager Steve Meehan.

The Valatie Rescue Squad has used Telehealth since September of 2021. Over the course of 13 months, they have had 37 calls where Telehealth was used. “Out of those 37, 70 percent of the patient contacts we’ve been able to actually keep at home with their families and provide them with the best care that we can,” explains Meehan.

Valatie Rescue Squad has partnered with UCM Digital Health, which is based in Troy, to provide the Telehealth resources. When an EMT/paramedic arrives at a call, they will first assess the situation before connecting with a doctor if needed through Zoom or a phone call. A patient can deny Telehealth service and request to be taken to a hospital. The usage of Telehealth oftentimes cuts down on how long a unit is out of service and how long a patient would have to wait to see a physician at a hospital.

With many hospitals facing staffing problems, ambulances are being diverted from one to the next, creating much longer wait times for emergency and non-emergency calls to be addressed at hospitals.

“It’s an issue for sure. Our wait times have increased dramatically. Our agency has seen as long as 6 ½ hours,” says VRS Executive Director Scott Bowman. “Regularly, it’s a half an hour to 40 minutes to an hour and every other day or two we have wait times over an hour or more.” 

A similar Telehealth partnership has been adopted by Albany County and UCM Digital Health. On top of keeping people out of potentially packed emergency rooms, the partnership also aims to help free up the county’s EMS resources, allowing them to respond to emergency calls quicker.