Diagnostic accuracy of a rapid telemedicine encounter in the Emergency Department

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Objectives:Emergency Department crowding is an increasing problem, leading to treatment delays and higher risk of mortality. Our institution recently implemented a telemedicine physician intake (“tele-intake”) process as a mitigating front-end strategy. Previous studies have focused on ED throughput metrics such as door to disposition; our work aimed to specifically assess the tele-intake model for clinical accuracy.Methods:We retrospectively reviewed ED visits at a high acuity, tertiary care academic hospital before and after tele-intake implementation. We defined the primary outcome as the degree of additional laboratory, imaging, and medication orders placed by the subsequent ED provider. Our secondary outcomes were the cancellation rate of intake orders and the percentage of encounters where no additional second provider orders were necessary.Results:For in-person and tele-intake physician encounters between September 2015 and February 2017, most labs and diagnostic radiology studies, and approximately half of CT, ultrasound, and pharmacy orders were initiated by the intake physician. We found no significant difference for our primary outcome (p = 0.2449). For both tele-intake and in-person encounters, <1% of orders were cancelled by the second provider. Additionally, 30.8% of in-person and 31.5% of telemedicine patient encounters required no additional orders to make a disposition decision.Discussion:This novel analysis of an innovative patient care model suggests that the benefits of tele-intake as a replacement for in-person physician directed intake are not at the cost of over or under utilization of diagnostic testing or interventions.

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