CATSKILL — Greene County paramedics are now able to offer an alternative to patients that costs less than a hospital visit.
The new telemedicine program went live Monday, Greene Emergency Medical Services President Mark Evans said. The program allows paramedics to connect virtually with a physician when appropriate rather than transporting a patient to the hospital.
“It could save a significant amount of mileage,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said. “Sometimes people are traveling to the hospital for things that are relatively simple and can be solved via telemedicine.”
The paramedic will speak with a certified physician in the emergency room that is specially trained to talk with paramedics, Evans said.
Paramedics will use their tablets to make the call, or if internet is unavailable, they will use their phone.
If cell service is an issue, a landline could also be used, Evans said.
“There is no additional equipment, no additional cost, nothing,” he said.
The physician may order the patient a prescription or call their regular doctor, Evans said. Patients that are more comfortable going to the hospital will be transported.
Greene EMS has been trying to get the program up and running for years, Evans said.
“The regulatory blockades were too much to overcome,” he said. “Now with COVID, suddenly, almost anything seems possible. If you had asked me last year or a year before if we would be doing telemedicine, I would have said when hell freezes over. It’s amazing the door that COVID has opened.”
Greene County is among the first to implement this type of program, Evans said.
“The real crucial part is that you can prevent somebody from going to the hospital,” Evans said. “The transport time off the mountaintop to a hospital could be 40 minutes or an hour and a half, depending on road conditions and what hospital you’re going to. If you can not take that ambulance off the mountain, that’s a lot of mileage, a lot of time, a lot of fuel and you can keep [the ambulance] there and available for the next call that might truly be a life-threatening call.”
“We think it will work pretty well here,” Linger said. “We have some pretty remote areas from our trauma centers and hospitals. We would wind up saving travel costs and it keeps the ambulance in service.”
Greene EMS has not used the telemedicine option as of Tuesday, Evans said.