Just about anyone who has been to an emergency room knows that care in the ER is anything but urgent. Unless you come in with a life-threatening injury on a stretcher, chances are, you will wait for hours before being seen. This inconvenience is incredibly frustrating for someone dealing with an acute health crisis who require immediate attention. Patient care is often compromised as doctors hurry through patients, and most patients leave unsatisfied with their experience.

A University of Texas researcher decided to take a closer look at the issue by investigating whether or not the use of telemedicine could help solve ER overcrowding. Researcher Dr. Shujing Sun explained that the enormous problem is large patient flow and small ER room capacity. In other words, there is no room in the ER to service the number of people who need to be seen after hours when no other health provider is available.
She explained that the ER’s overcrowding issue is straining the safety net the ER was created to provide, and urgent action needs to be taken to address the issue. To decrease financial costs, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce mortality rates, a better way to handle ER patients needs to be devised.

Along with her colleagues, Dr. Sun looked at how telemedicine could help remedy the overcrowding. While telemedicine has seen a massive surge in adaptation since the pandemic, it has not yet fully been utilized within the field of emergency medicine.

Sun described two significant changes to the way ER telemedicine is presented versus traditional home-based telemedicine. First, patients have to offer when they need the ER. Second, telemedicine allows on-site assistance from various physicians instead of just limited staff within the ER service.

ER visits increased 27% from 2000 to 2015, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expecting to continue to spur further increases. ER telemedicine aims to help increase physician efficiency and facilitate workflow. The study found that ER telemedicine could help rescue wait times and reduce the length of stay by merely reducing ER waiting time.