Telehealth can save Texas patients emergency medical care time at no cost to departments
TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Telehealth technology that launched this month is already helping Travis County Urgent Care District 2 — and its patients — save time and money.
On October 13, ESD 2 began using Tele911, a service that connects non-critical patients with doctors via tablet.
“We’ve already used it in the first 6 hours,” said Superintendent Nick Perkins.
Here’s how it works.
- EMTs arrive on a 911 call, trained to assess whether a patient can receive treatment without going to a hospital
- If emergency physicians determine that a patient can be helped virtually, they activate the Tele911 software
- Within 3 minutes, a Tele911 physician appears to provide a virtual assessment
“Once the patient is seen by the house doctors, they do a 24-hour follow-up the next day to make sure they’re feeling better, to make sure they’re doing well,” said Tele911 Marketing Director Kimberly Janicak .
She said all of the doctors are full-time emergency physicians who have contracted with Tele911 on the side to provide the service. The service costs no money for emergency departments. Instead, Tele911 partners with insurance companies, Janichak said.
“An ambulance ride can range from $400 to $1,500,” Chief Perkins said. He also said a streamlined process is critical now more than ever — given the staffing issues facing first responders and the medical industries.
According to the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services, telehealth services in general have expanded significantly since the height of the pandemic. Travis County ESD 2 is the first of 14 ESDs in the county to implement a telehealth service, according to Chief Perkins.
Austin-Travis County EMS developed its own system back in 2020. The agency said it has served about 800 patients through telehealth year to date.