American Board of Telehealth Strengthens Link between Virtual Care and Emergency Medicine

By Kelly Rhone, MD, FACEP, Founding Board Member, American Board of Telehealth; Medical Director of Outreach and Innovation, Avera eCARE

I first learned about emergency medicine as an emergency medical technician, a job I started at age 18 to pay for my college expenses, but more so, to fulfill my goal of working in health care.

As an EMT on a rural ambulance in South Dakota, I experienced that first touch of emergency medicine. We picked up patients in ditches, at their homes…wherever their emergencies happened. Then, during my rotations in medical school, I discovered my preference for acute cases, which eventually led me to emergency medicine.

Now, as a practicing emergency medicine physician for more than 15 years, I care for people of all ages – from birth until death at the times they need me most, which is why I chose this medical specialty.

Telemedicine acts as a workforce multiplier
Extremely sick patients can overwhelm a small emergency department without the specialty staff to treat them. In that situation, e-Emergency care acts as a workforce multiplier. I become a second set of eyes and hands when collaborating with my colleagues to help ensure a higher level of care for stroke or heart attack patients. Minutes matter, and we often advance these patients to the next level of care 20 minutes earlier than without telemedicine.

Collaboration with my colleagues creates effective symmetry for quality care using telehealth. For example, I have delivered more babies over the camera than in real life. At other times, for a provider who has never told someone that their loved one has died, I have walked through how to do that with dignity and compassion.

Quality telehealth education matters
Thrust into telemedicine, clinicians and health care systems weren’t prepared for this overnight change with the onset of Covid-19 in 2020. I know from talking with my colleagues, not everyone had a positive experience during this transition. Yet, other clinicians who had never used telehealth services before this public health emergency now tell me they would never practice without it.

As a Founding Board Member of the American Board of Telehealth, I participated in the Delphi process, an approach to help gain consensus on a subject with experts from the field. We worked with the Harvard Physicians Group during this process to identify the highest-ranking subjects for ABT’s telehealth certificate courses. The ABT Advisory Council, a group of business, telemedicine, legal and administrative experts, also provide their telehealth expertise in an almost revolutionary way because they are open to sharing ideas and best practices to guide our course development.

ABT established its training curriculum with the introduction of CORE Concepts in Telehealth Certificate Training Program and The Excellence in Telehealth – Telebehavioral Health Certificate Program. All ABT courses offer self-paced, online and real-world solutions to starting a telemedicine practice. Participants receive regular check-in via the learning management system to encourage ongoing engagement in the seven modules that makeup this course.

The course also presents a reality check for questions medical practices and hospitals face when introducing, maintaining or expanding telehealth services. Those questions may include:

  • How do I make telemedicine work in my health system?
  • How I design telehealth programs so that they pay for themselves?

The post-CORE Concepts course evaluation indicates participants improved their telehealth knowledge and would recommend the course to a colleague.

  • 60% of our learners have reported Excellent when asked about their knowledge of telehealth after completing this education compared to what they knew coming into it.
  • 96% of our leaners would recommend our Certificate program to a colleague.

Telehealth Is the patient-centric way to practice medicine
As a practicing emergency medicine physician and educator of medical students, I embrace and use telehealth. I also expect technologies to evolve with advanced uses for artificial intelligence and chronic disease management.

Technology is just one tool in the medical toolbox that helps improve patient care. It is here to stay, and as I tell my students, telemedicine reaches patients who may not have access to health care. The telehealth services these future physicians use will be by their side as they interact with patients.

And patient-centric care demands just that – quality care when and where patients need it most.

Learn more about the ABT telehealth certificate courses.

Published on May 25, 2021