Why Acute Care Telemedicine is Different than Consumer Telehealth

Picture of John Kalix, CEO of SOC Telemed

John Kalix, SOC Telemed CEO, recently joined John Lynn, the founding editor of Healthcare IT Today to discuss why acute care telemedicine is different than consumer telehealth, and its unique role in the growing telemedicine industry.

In a two-part series, we’ll outline key takeaways about the fundamental differences between consumer telehealth and acute care telehealth, and where the acute care industry may be headed. The extensive Healthcare IT Today interview is available in full here.

Acute telemedicine is different than consumer telehealth

  • For all of the coverage and conversation around the shifting norms of primary care and telehealth in the consumer space during the pandemic, acute care telemedicine is and will always be a fundamentally different creature.
  • The broader, consumer-facing telemedicine that enables remote primary care is very different than what is provided in emergency rooms and ICUs via acute care telemedicine.
  • In the broader world of consumer telehealth, patients schedule meetings with doctors in advance. But in an emergency, such as a stroke, an expert must be made available at a moment’s notice.
  • It’s a fundamentally different brand of telehealth to provide hospitals rapid connectivity to specialized remote experts, such as teleNeurologists, telePsychiatrists, or teleIntensivists.

Acute telemedicine expands access to scare resources

  • The reality is that specialized doctors today tend to congregate with greater density in major city centers, making staffing a challenge in the hospitals and health systems of rural America. Remote expertise can fill care gaps and save lives.
  • For those major city-centric health systems, the imbalance and overabundance of expertise in one practice can present the opportunity to share an available supply of talent with other hospitals through remote access, through a concept we often refer to as “fractionalization” of care.
  • Even in cities, certain professionals are hard to come by. Emergency child psychology is an example. When child psychiatry is needed at the emergency room, telehealth can provide the rapid-response answer.

Acute telemedicine integrates with hospital systems and workflows

  • Another way acute care telemedicine is different than consumer telehealth: acute care occurs in support of a hospital visit, where consumer telehealth often replaces it entirely. As such, acute care telehealth platforms must integrate with things like CT scanning equipment and onsite medical records platforms.
  • There is power in acute data. We’re measuring time units, time to door, and time to needle for quality. And we’re able to share that information with hospitals to compare benchmarks.
  • The result is that best practices emerge, and key departments within the hospital can run more efficiently. Metrics like case mix index rise while boarding times and waiting room lines shrink, keeping emergency departments and ICUs focused on fighting against COVID-19 or level one trauma. 

Acute telemedicine builds clinician muscle memory

  • Healthcare is no different than any kind of sport. The more you practice, the better you are. The more you see difficult cases, the better your clinical care is going to be. SOC Telemed physicians see a lot of challenging cases every week, where traditional hospitals might see one really difficult case in a month.
  • TeleNeurologists, for example, are uniquely positioned to make stroke decisions; at SOC Telemed, our physicians receive dozens of challenging, unique calls every shift from hospitals around the nation. As a result, our neurologists are practiced, prepared stroke care experts. And such expertise, it should be noted, is in short supply.

These key excerpts of the interview are only half the story. For video of the full interview and to read the corresponding coverage in Healthcare IT Today, click here.


For a visual overview of the difference between acute telemedicine and direct-to-consumer, see Telemedicine Takes Flight: Navigating the Complexities of Acute Care.