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Telemedicine in the emergency department to decrease personal protective equipment use: a before-and-after study

Abstract

Background Personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare workers was scarce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to assess whether telemedicine (using iPads) reduced PPE use in emergency department (ED) patients who were treated in contact isolation, and whether telemedicine had a positive effect on patient anxiety and satisfaction.

Methods We conducted a prospective single centre before-and-after study including ED patients ≥18 years who were treated in contact isolation. PPE use, the Hospital Anxiety Scale and the 15-item Picker Patient Experience Questionnaire were compared between the control period (8 April to 14 April 2020) and intervention period (15 April to 24 April 2020).

Results We included 25 patients in each period. PPE use per patient was higher for physicians in the control period (mean 1.7; 95% CI 1.5 to 1.9) compared with the intervention period (mean 1.2; 95% CI 1.0 to 1.3, p<0.01). Total PPE use per patient contact for ED physicians decreased from 42 out of 42 patient contacts in the control period, to 29 out of 66 patient contacts in the intervention period (difference 54.3%; 95% CI 50.1% to 58.6%, p<0.01). Reported anxiety and satisfaction were not significantly different.

Conclusion PPE use by physicians can successfully be reduced by using telemedicine in the ED without increasing anxiety or dissatisfaction. This study was a first step to gain experience with telemedicine in the ED which has the potential to reduce PPE use in future pandemics or other patients with an indication for contact isolation.

  • infectious diseases
  • viral
  • global health

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