Mobile Telehealth Units and Care Coordinators Improve Emergency Care Services for Rural Arizona Patients
RHI HUB | The Rural Monitor | by Jenn Lukens
When Summit Healthcare Associationin eastern Arizona began experiencing a steady increase of emergency room (ER) readmissions, it was clear something needed to change.
Summit’s first focus was its emergency medicine process. Because many of its ER visits came from ambulance transports, Summit began exploring the use of telehealth technology as a means to provide real-time advice from ER doctors to first responders on the road. Their second focus was a natural next step: to improve the transitions of these patients into follow-up care that would ultimately lessen the likelihood of future ER visits.
In 2016, Summit formed a network and applied for the Rural Health Network Development Program (RHND) grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) to help fund two services. First, mobile telemedicine units would allow first responders to transmit information and receive real-time advice from ER physicians. The anticipated effects were better triaging, advanced onsite care, and referrals to facilities that could best meet patients’ critical needs. Second, follow-up and educational efforts from care coordinators would improve the transitions of patients with chronic disease and/or behavioral health needs to appropriate care.
In just the second year of the program, the Network for Improved Outcomes in Rural Emergency Care (NIOREC) program’s healthcare interventions have proved promising, saving an estimated $1.2 million in air and ground ambulance transport costs by leveraging telemedicine to serve patients locally — providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place.
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