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September 30, 2016

Telemedicine Helps Solve Night Coverage Problems

Keeping a hospital staffed can be difficult, particularly when the overnight hours roll around. Most people are predisposed to sleeping at night, so staying awake through those long hours can be especially difficult. Compounded by the difficulty of the job in general, finding hospital staffing for overnight operations can be difficult whether we're talking about a rural or urban facility. A major technological change is afoot that may help on that front, thanks to Web-based real time communications (WebRTC).

Increasingly, hospitals of all sizes and locales are putting WebRTC tools to work as a means to address some critical staffing shortages at certain hours of the day via a practice known as telemedicine. It's become sufficiently valuable that Eagle Telemedicine has a slate of success stories, which it will be taking to the upcoming American Telemedicine Association's Fall Forum events.

Eagle also has some less-specific success stories to note. Firms working with Eagle have seen up to 40 percent savings on overnight coverage, which is impressive enough, but only gets better given a 50 percent increase in nighttime admissions, essentially showing hospitals doing much more with less. Average response times reach just a minute and nine seconds from first contact to remote interaction, making it an excellent alternative for hospitals to consider.

Setting up such a system can be as easy as a wheeled cart with some videoconferencing systems mounted on it. The videoconferencing system allows the telehospitalist—as the doctor on the other end is referred to—to view the patient remotely and interact with the patient as though both were in the same room. A further slate of diagnostic tools can then be used to gather needed information about the patient's status and then care can proceed from there.

Dr. Talbot “Mac” McCormick, who serves as Eagle's president and CEO, commented “Nocturnists often have to be in two places at once in busy hospitals: handling admissions and rounding in the ED, while also providing floor call consultations. Stress and burnout frequently result from this overload. Eagle Telecross-Coverage resolves the problem.”

That's perhaps one of the greatest things about WebRTC; it's a system that allows businesses of all sorts to stay in touch no matter where the individuals involved are physically located. Granted, some might find this too impersonal to serve much value in a hospital setting, but by like token, the idea of trying to keep a hospital fully staffed overnight is an expensive proposition. While not all injuries or illnesses take place conveniently during business hours, with medical costs skyrocketing, the idea of saving some money with a service like telehealth is hard to pass up.  

With healthcare costs rising and the population aging, telehealth may be the best way to help cut costs sufficiently to keep healthcare affordable. It's a difficult trade-off to make, but one that must be made just to keep hospitals running.

Edited by Alicia Young
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