Former New York Homeland Security Commissioner Discusses Telehealth Transformation
Wednesday, October 07, 2020 | Comments

As telemedicine and the adoption of new devices continue to grow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public-safety agencies and healthcare organizations will continue to employ them in new and innovative ways, a former public-safety official said.

Due to the risk of contagion, public-safety agencies are looking at ways to ensure that only patients who truly need critical care end up in emergency rooms and hospitals. By leveraging telehealth technologies, healthcare providers and first responders can provide patients with critical needs with the care they need while minimizing exposure to possible contagion and limiting the burden on hospitals, said Jerry Hauer, a public-safety consultant and the former commissioner of homeland security and emergency services for New York.

“You can reduce demand by letting the first responder be the bridge,” said Hauer. “It’s incredibly important to try and triage in the field. We’re used to doing triage in mass casualty events, and now we’re doing triage to ensure that they’re only brought to the hospital if they absolutely need it.”

A plethora of devices that allow the transmission of patient vitals, including blood glucose levels, temperature and breathing, can ensure that only patients who need emergency medical care at the hospital are taken there, limiting the potential of exposing first responders and the public to the virus.

“Data and the movement of data are central to everything with health care,” said Hauer.

These home vitals sensors also help unlock the potential to provide care even when a patient can’t reach out themselves. For example, a patient with an implanted defibrillator or other similar device, the device could send transmit an alert to medical professionals when abnormal or life threatening signs appear.

“Think about the ability to move health information without the patient even engaging,” said Hauer.

The biggest challenge to continued adoption of telehealth is the cost. Not only must the healthcare organization or agency have access to the technology, but patients much also buy in and purchase the devices, some of which are still very expensive. However, that likely will change over time.

“I think there will be an explosion of devices and they will become cheaper over time,” said Hauer.

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