Expansion of 24-hour online emergency care service, reducing pressure on emergency services

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Jenni Falconer, CEO of Emergency Consult, says online urgent healthcare is the future of emergency medicine.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

Jenni Falconer, CEO of Emergency Consult, says online urgent healthcare is the future of emergency medicine.

As emergency and urgent care waiting rooms fill up, an online service is trying to shorten the wait.

Jenni Falconer, Dr. Martyn Harvey and Giles Chanwai have worked in the emergency department at Waikato Hospital for over 20 years and have seen demand rise and wait times increase year after year.

They decided to approach the problem differently.

Emergency Consult was set up three years ago to give people access to specialist help – with doctors available online via video call when needed.

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It already employed 70 people and had just expanded to open its headquarters in downtown Hamilton.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

It already employed 70 people and had just expanded to open its headquarters in downtown Hamilton.

It already employed 70 people and has just expanded to open its head office in downtown Hamilton.

Clinical director Dr Martyn Harvey said his initial aim was to provide rapid remote medical response to everyday New Zealanders.

But they found they could help other healthcare providers as well.

“Our partnership with health care providers has allowed us to also help our physician colleagues when needed.

“In a system struggling with understaffing and burnout, this has become very important to us.”

CEO Jenni Falconer said there will still be a need for in-person care, but the strain on the system could be relieved through telehealth services.

“This is the future of emergency medicine.”

CEO Jenni Falconer said pressure on the healthcare system could be relieved by telehealth services.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

CEO Jenni Falconer said pressure on the healthcare system could be relieved by telehealth services.

Hospital emergency departments could be reserved for emergencies, with other urgent issues handled by an online doctor.

“We recognize that we cannot do everything remotely. But we can do a lot of good. Especially with timely care delivery.

She said they can help 85% of people who contact them online and can refer the rest to someone else who can help.

His doctors could also send prescriptions to a pharmacy near the patient, as well as order investigations – like scans and blood tests.

He has worked with eight rural emergency services, approximately 20 pharmacies and 30 nursing homes across the country.

The 30 physicians specializing in acute and emergency medicine and 40 registered nurses helped to fill staffing gaps and provide advice.

Dr Mustafa Alshaar, Dr Giles Chanwai, CEO Jenni Falconer, Clinical Director Dr Martyn Harvey, President Myles Whitcher at the opening of the Hamilton office.

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Dr Mustafa Alshaar, Dr Giles Chanwai, CEO Jenni Falconer, Clinical Director Dr Martyn Harvey, President Myles Whitcher at the opening of the Hamilton office.

“From remote communities to those isolating at home with Covid, to self-doubting night shift health care workers – we are here to help 24/7” , Falconer said.

It worked with pharmacies because it was often a last resort when people couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment.

But they weren’t providing GP care, Falconer said. The service was focused on urgent care.

People registered online and paid for their appointment, before going to a virtual waiting room to see a triage nurse.

It costs $89 for an adult and $49 for a child.

People would line up to see an ER-trained doctor – with an average wait time of three to five minutes.

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