The study showed that most patient encounters in the rural emergency department can be completed by local staff without an outside consultation, Mohr says.
"The consultation rate was about 3.5%, meaning that if 30 people walked into a rural emergency department, 29 were going to be treated without ever consulting the TM provider," Mohr says. "But, that 30th person is the one that the local clinician pushes the button and asks for help."
"Having that option available to them can be valuable," he says. "We've heard in some of our prior work that local clinicians value that, in terms of recruitment and retention. They appreciate having a telemedicine provider there, either to help with transfer or documentation, or to help with supervision of advanced practice providers."
Mohr says telemedicine finally appears to be catching on with rural providers. In North Dakota, for example, he says 80% of critical access hospitals use telemedicine services.
"In some regions where there are maybe extrinsic factors that make it challenging to staff emergency departments, there is a lot of value in having that tertiary care center expertise in those emergency departments," Mohr says. "It's becoming a minority of hospitals that don’t have telemedicine available."
"Barriers to telemedicine adoption for years were legislative and licensure barriers and broad band access, especially in rural areas," he says. "As broadband speeds are getting faster and rural communities are being connected to more broadband providers, that is making telemedicine available where previously it wasn’t, even when they wanted it."
Mohr says that telemedicine is not the silver bullet that will remove obstacles to healthcare access in rural America, but he sees it as part of the solution.
"And it will continue to be a bigger part of the solution as there are more telemedicine providers, and we figure out how telemedicine can best influence the care that patients receive, as broad band internet connectivity improves, and the quality of the connection at rural hospitals improves," he says. "All of those things will coalesce for telemedicine to continue to expand the scope of emergency care."
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.