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MetroHealth System part of new pilot program that puts doctors in ambulances, virtually

Virtual care via video visits in northeast Ohio
Virtual visits in ambulances
Posted at 6:10 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:43:50-05

BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — A new nationwide pilot program is putting doctors inside ambulances virtually. The MetroHealth System has partnered with three EMS agencies that provide emergency care to bring virtual care via video visits with a doctor in the back of an ambulance.

The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) agreement between MetroHealth, the Brecksville Fire Department, Life Care Ambulance and North Central EMS, is designed to offer more focused care for patients who call 911. It could mean a trip to the emergency room or a virtual visit with a MetroHealth emergency physician.

MetroHealth officials believe the result will be better care for patients, fewer ambulance trips to the hospital and lower out-of-pocket costs.

When a patient calls 911 and an EMS crew responds, typically that patient is taken to a hospital emergency department. Under ET3, the crew on the scene will complete an assessment of the patient to determine the immediate needs and what level of service is needed. That might still mean a trip to the emergency department. But they could also determine the patient’s condition can be treated at an alternative destination, such as urgent care or by their primary care physician.

If it is determined the patient has doesn’t have a life-threatening issue, the patient can be treated with a virtual visit. The medics will initiate a video visit with a MetroHealth emergency physician.

“The advances in virtual care, amplified by our response to COVID-19, allow MetroHealth’s Emergency Medicine physicians and our EMS partners to provide more complete care in certain 911 situations,” said MetroHealth EMS Division Director Thomas Collins MD, FACEP, FAEMS. “Ultimately, this helps patients stay at home and allows EMS to be more available to their community as a whole.”

ET3 is a voluntary, five-year payment model from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, that will provide greater flexibility to EMS agencies to address emergency health care needs of Medicare patients following a 911 call. ET3 will continue to allow for transport to a hospital emergency department. But under this model, a patient may also be transported to an alternative destination like a primary care office, urgent care clinic, or a community mental health center, or with a MetroHealth provider via virtual care.

“This cutting-edge system will change the way emergency medical response is delivered in the field by our Fire/EMS personnel, yielding a higher standard of care for those we serve and protect,” said Brecksville Fire Chief Nick Zamiska.

“As we forge ahead with the ET3 initiative, the sky is the limit!” said David Richards CEO at LifeCare Ambulance Inc., located in Elyria. “I can see where this could lead to more robust follow-up care after hospital discharges and community paramedicine.”

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