EMS has traditionally been built around well-established response, treat, and transport protocols. The COVID-19 crisis upended this, expanding the focus beyond time-sensitive emergencies to things like mitigating the demand on local healthcare systems and securing communication for outpatients in medical isolation. These new requirements revealed a deep need for better mobile-first technologies that would enable dynamic communication between the EMS prehospital care teams and all the other hospital clinicians connected to the patient journey. As EMS agencies look for ways to better support patients, telehealth technologies are quickly becoming an indispensable part of their care systems.
In April of 2019, long before COVID-19, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services published a study that followed the success of the Houston Fire Department in using telehealth to provide patients with out-of-hospital care, effectively decreasing costs and hassle for patients who didn’t need transport. They concluded that “given the increase in costs associated with prehospital emergency care, and the increasing burden on these resources from continuous increased calls to 9-1-1, it’s imperative to redesign the traditional delivery system.” And further, they added: “We propose a model where more EMS agencies pursue adoption of telehealth on a pilot basis to determine their role for both acute and non-acute care.”