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Telemedicine for emergency patient rescue.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This article summarizes recent developments in the application of telemedicine, specifically tele-critical care (TCC), toward enhancing patient care during various types of emergencies and patient rescue scenarios when there are limited resources in terms of staff expertise (i.e., knowledge, skills, and abilities), staffing numbers, space, and supplies due to patient location (e.g., a non-ICU bed, the emergency department, a rural hospital) or patient volume as in pandemic surges.

RECENT FINDINGS: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for rapidly scalable and agile healthcare delivery systems. During the pandemic, clinicians and hospital systems adopted telemedicine for various applications. Taking advantage of technological improvements in cellular networks and personal mobile devices, and despite the limited outcomes literature to support its use, telemedicine was rapidly adopted to address the fundamental challenge of exposure in outpatient settings, emergency departments, patient follow-up, and home-based monitoring. A critical recognition was that the modality of care (e.g., remote vs. in-person) was less important than access to care, regardless of the patient outcomes. This fundamental shift, facilitated by policies that followed emergency declarations, provided an opportunity to maintain and, in many cases, expand and improve clinical practices and hospital systems by bringing expertise to the patient rather than the patient to the expertise. In addition to using telemedicine to maintain patient access to healthcare, TCC was harnessed to provide local clinicians, forced to manage critically ill patients beyond their normal scope of practice or experience, access to remote expertise (physician, nursing, respiratory therapist, pharmacist). These practices supported decades of literature from the telemedicine community describing the effectiveness of telemedicine in improving patient care and the many challenges defining its value.

SUMMARY: In this review, we summarize numerous examples of innovative care delivery systems that have utilized telemedicine, focusing on 'mobile' TCC technology solutions to effectively deliver the best care to the patient regardless of patient location. We emphasize how a 'paradigm of better' can enhance the entirety of the healthcare system.

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