Real-time solutions with telehealth MIH
How the latest partnerships between EMS and digital health providers are giving patients faster access to high-quality care through mobile integrated health
By Keith Algozzine
Inflation and the possibility of a recession are impacting every industry and healthcare isn’t immune. According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals have seen significant expense increases between 2019 to 2022. Compared to 2019, drug expenses have gone up 36.9%, labor costs have increased 19% and the cost of supplies is 20.6% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The result is that overall healthcare costs are significantly increasing for both patients and health organizations in a time when excessive workloads are being shouldered by EMS providers and emergency rooms. In fact, The National Association of State Emergency Medical Services released its 2020 EMS Assessment, indicating a rapidly growing responsibility and demand for emergency medical services.
To help meet and address this growing need, EMS departments are finding solutions through collaboration and technology, with mobile integrated health solutions capable of serving as a real-time extension of EMS or 911 treatment.
Mobile integrated health and community safety
Mobile integrated health (MIH) is a progressive collaboration in the delivery of care, enhancing care and public safety at the community level by pairing local EMS departments with digital health providers and technology innovations. Along with community paramedicine, MIH seeks to provide higher quality care at more cost-effective levels through resource coordination to various healthcare teams and providers.
These collaborative partnerships currently being forged between community EMS branches, area hospitals, 911 centers, sheriff departments, and digital health and telehealth platforms are providing patients with immediate access to high-quality virtual care, avoiding unnecessary and often-costly trips to the emergency room.
Additionally, incorporating MIH solutions will help these public safety organizations address the growing disparity between the volume of emergency 911 calls and the limited availability of resources. For example, EMS spends considerable time and resources transporting patients who might be better cared for outside the emergency room. When a first responder crew is managing a non-emergency call, public safety readiness for true emergencies is diminished.
Not to mention, these increased efficiencies equip medical providers with more capacity to focus on higher-level medical emergencies. This provides patients with the right care, in the right setting, at the most cost-effective level.
Effective collaboration in practice
Here’s how it works. During an evaluation at the scene of an incident, the paramedics and EMTs would assess the severity level of the situation and decide if emergency care at a hospital is absolutely needed or if there is an opportunity to treat the patient where they are and/or triage the patient to another place outside the hospital. If it is determined that the patient does not require emergency treatment in the hospital or ER setting, with consent from the patient, a virtual consultation will commence with an experienced, trained ER physician-led care team, who will then proceed to treat and/or triage the patient.
This shared operation allows EMS teams to seamlessly integrate readily available physicians and care teams into their 911 responses, resulting in care that can be administered in the patient’s home rather than in the hospital. The partnership reduces excessive workload burdens on EMS providers, as well as on congested emergency rooms and EMS accessibility to prioritize public safety needs.
In addition to treating a patient’s immediate health concerns, the right MIH solution can provide medical advice and reassurance; prescribed medications; connections to programs and resources in the community; as well as referrals for supplemental treatment, including laboratory testing, imaging and specialist appointments, should they be needed. Additionally, follow-up virtual consultations can even be scheduled for the patient to provide ongoing care.
Ultimately, these kinds of MIH solution partnerships with EMS providers give patients immediate access to emergency medicine-level care in the comfort of their own homes and allow them to avoid overburdened ERs when possible. Through a collaboration with local hospitals, EMS departments and various first responder groups, these innovative EMS partnerships offer a myriad of opportunities to improve patient health outcomes and mitigate stress on an already stretched emergency response system.
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About the author
Keith Algozzine is the co-founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. A board-certified physician assistant, he was formerly the chief PA of emergency medicine for St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, New York, where he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the modern healthcare system. Keith was also part of the national ER startup management team for Pegasus Emergency Medicine. He represents UCM Digital Health on the American Telemedicine Association Accreditation Advisory Board and serves as an advisor to the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committees dealing with telemedicine considerations for urgent and emergency care.
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