Characterizing New England Emergency Departments by Telemedicine Use.

Publication Date: 
Oct 31, 2017

INTRODUCTION: Telemedicine connects emergency departments (ED) with resources necessary for patient care; its use has not been characterized nationally, or even regionally. Our primary objective was to describe the prevalence of telemedicine use in New England EDs and the clinical applications of use. Secondarily, we aimed to determine if telemedicine use was associated with consultant availability and to identify ED characteristics associated with telemedicine use.

METHODS: We analyzed data from the National Emergency Department Inventory-New England survey, which assessed basic ED characteristics in 2014. The survey queried directors of every ED (n=195) in the six New England states (excluding federal hospitals and college infirmaries). Descriptive statistics characterized ED telemedicine use; multivariable logistic regression identified independent predictors of use.

RESULTS: Of the 169 responding EDs (87% response rate), 82 (49%) reported using telemedicine. Telemedicine EDs were more likely to be rural (18% of users vs. 7% of non-users, p=0.03); less likely to be academic (1% of users vs. 11% of non-users, p=0.01); and less likely to have 24/7 access to neurology (p<0.001), neurosurgery (p<0.001), orthopedics (p=0.01), plastic surgery (p=0.01), psychiatry (p<0.001), and hand surgery (p<0.001) consultants. Neuro/stroke (68%), pediatrics (11%), psychiatry (11%), and trauma (10%) were the most commonly reported applications. On multivariable analysis, telemedicine was more likely in rural EDs (odds ratio [OR] 4.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.30-14.86), and less likely in EDs with 24/7 neurologist availability (OR 0.21, 95% CI [0.09-0.49]), and annual volume <20,000 (OR 0.24, 95% CI [0.08-0.68]).

CONCLUSION: Telemedicine is commonly used in New England EDs. In 2014, use was more common among rural EDs and EDs with limited neurology consultant availability. In contrast, telemedicine use was less common among very low-volume EDs.