A NEW time-saving – and potentially life-saving – telemedicine service is being tested on a pilot basis in West Cork.
Kevin O’Sullivan, who is the operations manager with the National Ambulance Service South, explained that it means patients can be interviewed by an emergency physician at the Cork University Hospital via a video link.
Mr O’Sullivan said the ambulance service recently invited Jim Daly, TD, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, to see the new service in action.
Mr O’Sullivan explained that the new service would not be suitable for everyone. ‘Appropriate patients’ would, for example, include those presenting with abdominal pain, an injury or a wound, or chronically ill patients who do not have a fever.
These patients would undergo a physical examination by the paramedic, provided their vital signs are within the normal range, and they are able to communicate in English.
If, and when, the telemedicine service becomes fully operational, Mr O’Sullivan said it would assist in the delivery of care over a wide geographical area.
In areas where telemedicine is already in use, Mr O’Sullivan said an estimated 18% of patients with these complaints are transported to the emergency department, compared to 74% under normal cir-cumstances.
Another benefit is that the telemedicine ambulance units can be returned to service in under 40 minutes, compared to 89 minutes normally. And, by providing a time-critical diagnosis, it also helps in terms of emergency department preparedness and quicker triage.
Long-term, Mr O’Sullivan said it could mean less overcrowding of emergency departments, allow patients to be treated nearer to their homes, and make ambulances more available.
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