The Use of Telemedicine Decreases Unnecessary Hand Trauma Transfers

Hand (N Y). 2020 May;15(3):422-427. doi: 10.1177/1558944718810877. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Purpose: The Arkansas Hand Trauma Telemedicine Program (AHTTP) is a novel telemedicine system that was developed in 2014 within a rural state to address the growing need of access to hand trauma care with one trauma center that cares for mangling hand injuries. The purpose is to compare transfers for hand injuries prior to and after the implementation of this system. Methods: The hospital institutional database was queried for all transfers to a level 1 medical center in the state from 2012 to 2015, allowing the comparison of data prior to and after the institution of the AHTTP. Patient disposition from the emergency department was categorized to evaluate the impact of AHTTP. Distance, mode of transport, and transport cost were assessed. Findings: There were 202 transfers for the treatment of isolated hand trauma (92 from 2012 to 2013 and 110 from 2014 to 2015). Prior to the institution of AHTTP, transfer patients were admitted 47.8% of the time compared with 68.2% of the time after the development of the program (P = .02). The approximate cost of transport for patients who were discharged home directly from the emergency department was 38.5% (US $47,233) of the total costs for the 2012-2013 period and was 21.4% (US $34,017) of the costs for the 2014-2015 period (P < .0001). Conclusions: There was a statistically significant decrease in the number of unnecessary transfers and transportation costs after the telemedicine program was started. The implementation of AHTTP in a rural state reduced health care costs and improved the efficiency of hand specialty care.

Keywords: hand call; hand injury; hand trauma; telemedicine; trauma transfers.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hand Injuries*
  • Humans
  • Patient Transfer
  • Telemedicine*
  • Trauma Centers