EMS mHealth system reduces ED visits, saves money

The Houston Fire Department hopes to enhance emergency medical response, reduce unnecessary transports to hospital emergency departments and provide patients with primary care resources via a video and data-sharing system.

The program, Emergency Telehealth and Navigation (ETHAN), is a collaboration between HFD, community paramedicine organizations and regional partnerships, according to a report in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS).

Forty percent of Houston's ED visits are primary care related, and the city averages more than 800 emergency medical services a day. In addition, because EMS personnel previously weren't able to provide primary care in the field, the transports led to a 33 percent growth spike in ED patients in the past 10 years.

With ETHAN, doctors at Houston's 911 call center can interact in real-time with patients as EMS professionals use tablets and apps to share health information and discuss possible transport and clinic scheduling. Following an ETHAN encounter, a patient's data is provided to Care Houston Links, which provides care navigation services. This allows social workers and healthcare navigators to follow up with a patient to identify any social services needs.

"By focusing on technology-enabled patient navigation to more appropriate levels of care and leveraging community collaborations and partnerships, we expect this program to grow significantly in years to come," the report's authors say.

Delaware healthcare providers also are tapping into digital tools to provide transport information for patients. An iPad video solution is being used to determine whether pediatric respiratory patients require transport to another hospital for treatment or can be treated in their initial emergency room.

In addition, a pilot program featuring iPads by a Pennsylvania health network aims to enhance emergency medical services for home-based patients while reducing emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

For more information:
- read the JEMS article