Imagine going to the emergency department of your local hospital late one Saturday night — you know you’re sick, and what you have in your medicine cabinet is just not enough to give you any relief.
You’ll probably endure a multi-hour wait before you are seen by a very busy emergency room physician. Among the factors contributing to the bottleneck? The 20 percent of Americans who use the emergency department (ED) for their routine healthcare needs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We hear it all the time — waiting creates real frustration and anxiety for patients,” says Dr. Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Typically, when a patient comes into the ED, the entire process, including triage — where the acuity, or seriousness, of the problem is assessed — a physician assessment and checking out can range from a total of two to five hours.”
This problem, says Dr. Sharma, was the genesis for Digital ED Express Care Service, launched at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in July. The service is a telehealth initiative that’s transforming the emergency care experience for both patients and doctors, drastically reducing wait times and stress without sacrificing quality.
“It’s the first ED-based telehealth program using this model in the country,” says Dr. Sharma. “No one else has done telehealth like this — you get checked out, you have a screening exam by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant and then you get discharged directly from the room, typically in less than one hour.”