While EMS appears to be the ideal setting for the use of telemedicine, the technology has been slow in gaining acceptance for a wide variety of reasons. What is the future of EMS telemedicine and how does one navigate the technical and operational issues associated with it? This article is an introduction to a more comprehensive discussion on telemedicine that will be featured on EMSWorld.com over the next few months.
The generally accepted definition of telemedicine is: “The use of information exchanged from one place to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s health status.” From the standpoint of EMS, from voice-based medical oversight, pre-arrival notifications and ECG telemetry to sending still or moving images, use of various forms of telemedicine has always been a routine occurrence. In fact, EMS may actually hold the title of first in telemedicine! According to a 1973 article in Chest that described an early deployment of ECG telemetry in Nassau County, New York, “ECG telemetry provides objective data.” The 21st century, image-centric version is just another step in this direction.