Telehealth for 1st Responders

Emergency medical service agencies in Virginia’s rural Essex, Westmoreland, and/or Richmond counties, are able to respond to a call for a patient with COVID-19 symptoms by communicating in real time with VCU Health emergency medicine physicians using telehealth.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health physicians are able to evaluate the patient and discuss the risks and benefits of transport to a hospital versus having the patient remain in their home.

The pilot program which is the first of its kind in Virginia, allows EMS agencies and VCU Health to rapidly make decisions on what is best for the patient while also lowering the chance of additional exposure. At the same time, the pilot program is able to reduce the strain on busy EMS agencies and hospital EDs that are faced with treating potential COVID-19 patients.

The EMS agencies connect with VCU Health via a HIPAA-compliant communications platform called Pulsara, approved by the VCU Health System. The system enables video chat between the VCU emergency medicine physician, the patient, and the EMS provider.

Harinder Dhindsa, MD, Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine and Medical Director of VCU Critical Care Transport reports, “The program is an example of how VCU Health and local EMS agencies can work together to serve patients and the community, particularly in a crisis situation. The team is considering expanding the program to additional Virginia localities and perhaps for patients with conditions besides COVID-19.”

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