Does Telemedicine Reduce Emergency Room Congestion? Evidence from New York State


( Accepted at Information Systems Research )
Overcrowding in emergency rooms (ERs) is a common yet nagging problem. It not only is costly for hospitals but also compromises care quality and patient experience. Hence, finding effective ways to improve ER care delivery is of great importance. Using a large dataset covering all emergency visits of New York State from 2010 to 2014, we investigate whether telemedicine enhances ER care delivery. We show that, on average, telemedicine availability in the ER significantly reduces average patients’ length of stay (LOS), which is partially driven by the flexible resource allocation. Specifically, the adoption of telemedicine leads to a larger reduction in ER LOS when there is a demand surge or supply shortage. Furthermore, such improvement is not a byproduct of other widely adopted health IT applications and does not come at the expense of care quality or patient cost. We also replicate the analysis using annual U.S. hospital data and find that ER telemedicine adoption significantly reduces average patients’ waiting time, which suggests that the LOS reduction partially comes from the reduction of waiting time.