HumanInsight The Impact of Virtual Care in an Emergency Department Observation Unit
Ann Emerg Med. 2022 Oct 14:S0196-0644(22)00503-0. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2022.07.003. Online ahead of print.
STUDY OBJECTIVE(S): We report the impact of telemedicine virtual rounding in emergency department observation units (EDOU) on the effectiveness, safety, and cost relative to traditional observation care.
METHODS: In this retrospective diff-in-diff study, we compared observation visit outcomes from 2 EDOUs before (pre) and after (post) full adoption of telemedicine rounding tele-observation (tele-obs) with usual care in control EDOU and care in a hospital bed in an integrated health system without tele-obs. Tele-obs physicians did not work at the control hospital. Outcomes were the length of stay, total direct costs, admission status, and adverse events (ICU and death). Difference-in-differences modeling evaluated outcomes with covariates including age, sex, payer type, and clinical classification software diagnostic category. Data from a system data warehouse and a cost accounting database were used.
RESULTS: Of the 20,861 EDOU visits, 15,630 (74.9%) were seen in the preperiod and 6,657 (31.9%) in control EDOU. Of 23,055 non-EDOU inpatient visits assigned to observation status (nonobservation unit), 76% were seen in the preperiod. Adjusted length of stay was not significantly different for tele-obs and control EDOUs (26.4 hours versus 23.5 hours), which remained lower than in hospital settings (37.9 hours). The pre-post diff-in-diff was not significant (P=.78). Inpatient admission status was similar for tele-obs and control EDOUs (20.9% versus 22.4.%) and lower than in hospital settings (30.3%). Prepost odds ratios for inpatient admission and adverse outcomes did not change significantly for all study groups. Adjusted costs increased over time for all settings; however, the prepost median cost change was not significantly different between tele-obs EDOUs and control EDOUs ($162.5 versus $235) and was lower than the change for control hospital settings ($783). Median tele-obs EDOU cost over both periods ($1,541) remained significantly lower than hospital costs ($2,413).
CONCLUSION: Using tele-obs to manage observation patients in an ED observation unit was not associated with significant differences in length of stay, admission status, measured adverse events, or total direct cost.
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