The rise of telehealth can no longer be ignored. It seems to be surprising to talk about this as it certainly isn’t a new industry, but the perfect storm of pandemic, lockdown restrictions, and legislation has finally cast telehealth into the spotlight. During the start of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, telehealth visits hit prime time with over 1.6 million telehealth sessions.
As some restrictions have eased, there has been a dropoff in overall telehealth visits. That being said, according to a McKinsey report, telehealth is still used 38 times more than prior to the pandemic.
Still, this doesn’t change matters for nursing home residents as they are still limited by greater restrictions than the general public and have limited mobility, transportation, and access to specialists.
Many Nursing Home Residents Never See a Doctor
(Source: Tapestry Health)
One of the downsides to being in a nursing home is that you may have a lack of mobility which leads to a lack of specialists that you would be able to go out and visit. Consider that more than 10% of patients, once admitted to a skilled nursing facility for post-acute care, never see a doctor or advanced practice nurse during their stay. Not surprisingly, these same nursing home patients are twice as likely to need readmittance into the hospital or will die within 30 days due to lack of specialized care.
When nursing homes are staffed with advanced practice nurses the hospitalizations of patients are greatly reduced. Take one study that found just adding an APRN to the nursing home staff reduced mobilizations by $33 and lowered overall cost by that same amount too. One major reason why this is the case is because of early detection. Issues such as Pneumonia and UTIs can be treated easily if noticed at their beginning stages and APRNs are not only trained to be able to recognize the signs but can also help other staff learn the signs as well.
Telemedicine Can Treat More Than You Might Think
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes can easily staff an APRN, but telemedicine makes the possibility more easily obtainable. More than 83% of health issues are treatable with the help of a telemedicine physician who can work alongside the already on site nursing staff. This alone can reduce hospitalizations to just 17% of acute encounters and by as much as 70% of hospital readmissions.
We’re not out of the woods yet in fighting the pandemic. While it does seem more comforting and assuring to see a doctor in person, telemedicine affords nursing home residents opportunities that they unfortunately often do not have available to them. Telemedicine is saving lives and should continue to be prevalent in any effective SNF’s toolbox.