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Board looking into system Tulsa, OKC paramedics could use to videoconference with doctors in the field

The board overseeing emergency medical service treatment protocols in Tulsa and Oklahoma City is looking at a telehealth service that paramedics can use in the field.

The Tele911 system would let paramedics reach a licensed emergency medicine physician via videoconference after performing a preliminary exam on a patient. That doctor could write prescriptions and schedule a follow-up appointment, and potentially save paramedics a trip to the hospital with a patient who does not need to go.

Emergency medicine Dr. Marc Eckstein, the founder of Tele911, estimates 85% of patients taken to an emergency room by ambulance can be safely treated at home or in a clinic.

"This could not only give better care at the time of that initial patient encounter, it could reduce the need for a 911 callback within the next 24-plus hours, and it might reduce the need — and again, probably for lower-acuity situations only, by definition — but it might reduce the need for a patient to show up at an ED [by] private vehicle or other means as well," Tulsa and Oklahoma City EMS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe told the Medical Control Board.

Goodloe told the board he envisions starting to use Tele911 with patients who refuse transport or even additional treatment.

"This definitely does not involve patients today that are saying, 'Hey, I want to go to the hospital,' and we're saying, 'Well, hold up. Let's talk about telehealth.' That's a different piece than what we're talking about today, and we may or may not get to that piece," Goodloe said. "If we do, that would be built on the foundation of success of this earlier piece."

Eckstein told the board this week he would send them sample protocols for using Tele911 for their review.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.