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Emergency Medical Technician-Facilitated Telehealth Visits: A New Model to Expand Home-Based Primary Care for Homebound Seniors

Telehealth and Medicine Today (TMT)

By Telehealth and Medicine Today (TMT)

Telehealth and Medicine Today (TMT) is a leading international peer review journal where multidisciplinary thought leaders, practitioners, and stakeholders converge to address strategic, medical, technical, economic, legal, regulatory and societal aspects of this growing health technology sector.

Karen A. Abrashkin, A. Camille McBride, Jill C. Slaboda, Michael Kurliand, Amparo Abel-Bey, Atika Turkistani, Kayla Finuf, Renee Pekmazaris


Objective: As the number of older adults living in the United States grows, the gap between the capacity of home-based primary care (HBPC) services and the community demand will continue to widen. Older adults, living longer with mobility difficulties and multiple chronic medical conditions, often prefer to age in place, and new models of care are needed to meet this need. This article provides a framework for an innovative emergency medical technician (EMT)-facilitated telehealth program, the mobile telemedicine technician (MTT) program, which aims to increase access to medical care and efficiency within an HBPC program.

Design: A descriptive framework outlining the deployment of an innovative telehealth model.

Setting: An HBPC program serving homebound seniors in downstate New York.

Participants: Homebound individuals enrolled in an HBPC program with advanced age (over half >90 years), 67% with 5–6 activities of daily living (ADL) dependencies, and high rates of dementia, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes requiring evaluation and treatment of acute conditions.

Interventions: HBPC program enrollees requiring evaluation and treatment of acute conditions received a home visit from a telehealth-enabled EMT who has received additional training to provide in-home care. Following an evaluation, the EMT facilitated a telehealth visit via a two-way video conference between the patient and the primary care physician.

Main outcome measures: Description of a novel telehealth care model, preliminary results from the first 100 MTT visits including the reason for visit, patient/caregiver, physician, and telehealth-enabled EMT satisfaction survey results.

Results: The primary care provider was able to evaluate twice as many patients in a given time period using the new model as in the regular home visit care model. The most common visit reasons were related to skin conditions (22%), neurological conditions (19%), cardiovascular conditions (16%), and respiratory conditions (15%). Satisfaction rates were high from patients/caregivers (45% response rate, 60% strongly agreed and 29% agreed that they were satisfied with the care delivery experience), physician (six surveys over time from one physician, 100% strongly agreed on the effectiveness of care delivery model), and telehealth-enabled EMTs (eight surveys from four EMTs, 100% strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the care delivery experience).

Conclusions: In this descriptive article, we outline a new model of care using telehealth-enabled EMTs making home visits to connect with a patient’s primary care physician who is centrally located. This model shows promise for expanding primary care services within the home.

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