Baptist Health South Florida's ER overcrowding solution: 'Tele-triage'

In need of a strategy to deal with unexpected surges in emergency department use, a Florida health system controlled the volume by combining triage with telemedicine, according to Hospitals & Health Networks.

Looking to offset ED overcrowding, Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables created a “TeleTriage” program to stem the flow. The program allows patients to connect with physicians through video conferences, moving them through the emergency department faster and, essentially, increasing the hospital's ED capacity, Rodolfo Lopez, Baptist Health’s manager of IT telehealth systems, told H&HN in a video interview.

The program required closer ties between clinicians and remote physicians, with the ED nurse responsible for both greeting the patient and explaining the tele-triage technology and procedure to them, according to Lopez.

The remote physician, meanwhile, is removed from the chaos and distractions of being physically present in the ER, allowing them to give patients their undivided attention. This also provides doctors with more time to scrutinize medical records and patient histories to determine the best possible course of action, Lopez said.

Thus far, Lopez told H&HN, patients dealing with chest pain , minor head injuries or abdominal pain seem to be among those benefiting most from the triage system.. "Any time you can get to see a doctor faster when you get to the ED, right there you already feel that you're going to be taken care of," he told H&HN.

In addition to its value in reducing overcrowding, telemedicine can also eliminate care access barriers for low-income and at-risk patients, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

- watch the interview