Local telehealth program on the horizon for emergency medicine

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany Fire Department is looking toward the future of emergency telehealth as the pandemic fast-tracks remote medicine across the nation. According to the American Medical Association, COVID-19 has progressed wide-spread use of telemedicine by nearly ten years.

Albany Fire Department has been in the research phase of adding telemedicine options to the emergency calls for almost a year. However, the pandemic made the new program a closer reality.

“A little bit in left-field before COVID hit. Now, that barrier has just disappeared,” Albany Deputy Fire Chief David Newton said.

Previously, those barriers included available technology and wide-spread access to remote platforms. Now, the department is hopeful for a roll out in 2021.

The new program would allow patients to video call with a doctor once the EMS team arrives at their door. In theory, it will make calls more efficient and provide another step to the prehospital care they currently offer.

Additionally, the program hopes to save critical space at Emergency Rooms by cutting down on non-essential ER patients.

“Saving emergency departments for those critically injured patients and that helps the wait time in the emergency departments to decrease,” Albany Fire Chief Joseph Gregory said.

The current system for deciding if an ER trip is necessary can be time-consuming. When an individual chooses not to take the journey to the ER after calling 911, EMS workers usually have to call a working ER doctor on the phone for approval.

“We answer calls from our paramedic partners to help them take care of critical patients,” Dr. Michael Dailey, Chief of Prehospital and Operational Medicine at Albany Medical Center, explained. “Sometimes, when the patient is less critical, those calls actually take longer.”

Dailey says this option would use Doctors from a call center for assessment instead of ER doctors who need to stay focused on in-person patients. He believes it could be helpful to patients and emergency medical staff alike.

“The whole impetus is to bring quality care into the twenty-first century,” Gregory said.

Although the program is still in the research phase, Albany Fire Department hopes to roll out this option as soon as funding and training are in place.

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