Telemedicine in Nursing Homes

telemedicine in nursing homes

Telemedicine saves lives.  Nursing homes need telemedicine now more than ever as the needs of their patients shift. 20% of hospitalized patients are discharged to nursing homes for post-acute care.  These patients need more medical interventions than long-term residents.  This may include intravenous antibiotics, skilled wound care, physical therapy, and more.  Although nursing home residents are shifting towards post-acute treatment, they aren’t getting the attention and care they need.

More than 10% of patients admitted to a skilled nursing home for post-acute care never see a doctor or advanced practice nurse during their stay.  The average nursing facility stay for post-acute patients who never see a physician is 11 days.  This lack of care leads to dire consequences.  Post-acute nursing home patients who don’t see a physician or advanced practice nurse are two times more likely to be rehospitalized or pass within 30 days of their stay. 

While it has been proven that missing or delayed medical care for post-acute nursing home residents leads to poor outcomes, it is permissible under current policy.  Medicare only requires residents to see a physician within 30 days of admission to a skilled nursing facility.  This policy is a holdover from the days when most nursing home patients were admitted for long-term, custodial care.  Now that we know the problems nursing home residents are facing, it is our job to find a better way to serve this vulnerable population.  

Nursing home residents need in-house medical care.  One study showed that nursing homes that added an advanced practice nurse to their team reduced hospitalizations.  Not only did they lower hospitalizations by 48%, but they also lowered costs by 40%.  In an ideal world, all facilities would be able to employ this staff.  Small or rural facilities often don’t have the option to employ onsite clinical staff, and large facilities often have many patients and not enough caregivers.  Telemedicine fixes this issue.

Telemedicine enables all nursing homes to provide in-house medical care.  83% of health issues can be treated by a telemedicine physician working with the on-site nursing staff.  The most common diagnosis are UTIs, pneumonia, hypotension, seizures, and hypoglycemia.  Telemedicine physicians can diagnose patients, reducing hospitalizations for up to 17% of acute encounters.  Through telehealth services, nursing homes can reduce hospital readmissions by as much as 70%. 

Nursing home residents with bedside access to a team of specialists, physicians, and behavioral health services get the best of both worlds.  A 24/7 clinician can virtually respond to resident needs, allowing conditions to be treated early, preventing rehospitalizations, and improving outcomes.  An on-site nurse practitioner works with the support of a full-scope multi-specialty medical and behavioral health team to improve care. 

Not only does telehealth make care more accessible, but it also cuts down on time.  Digital vital sign monitoring cuts the process down from an average of 16 minutes manually to less than a minute.  In addition, it eliminates human error and automatically notifies a practitioner if readings are outside the prescribed parameters.  This gives nurses more time to focus on patients and care rather than documentation and manual recording. Improve your nursing home’s medical care with telemedicine.

Why Nursing Homes Need Telemedicine