SKILLED NURSING FACILITIES AND TELEMEDICINE: AN UNLIKELY MARRIAGE
At pMD, we are passionate about creating technology that not only improves patient care but stays up-to-date with the ever-changing needs and requirements of our practices. We realize the way in which providers practice medicine is changing, and we need to be able to support them in successfully navigating these changes.
New pMD Feature Brings Telemedicine to Customers
One newer feature of pMD is video calling, which enables provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient communication and brings telemedicine to our customers. While countless specialties benefit from telemedicine encounters, I’d like to highlight our friends in long term care (LTC) and how telemedicine can alleviate some of the stressors they are facing.
CMS Penalizing Long Term Care Facilities for Readmissions
After working with my fair share of providers in LTC, one concern I heard repeatedly was about keeping their patients from being readmitted to the Emergency Department (ED). Of course, this is a concern because they want their patients to improve, but also because CMS is now penalizing LTC facilities when a patient who had been discharged is readmitted to the ED within 30 days. These penalties are hefty, and often have a tremendous impact on facilities where a large part of the population is covered by Medicare. Last year alone, 11,000 Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) were penalized by Medicare.
Video Conferencing Can Prevent Readmissions
So why are these readmissions happening? Well, imagine this: your grandfather was discharged after a 2-week stay at a skilled nursing facility. A couple of days later he complains of shortness of breath, but it’s a Sunday, and his doctor’s office is closed. Without a way to contact a member of his care team, you are left with little choice but to head back to the hospital. What if you have the ability to triage his symptoms over video conferencing? This could prevent readmissions by contacting a provider on his care team to determine whether or not a trip to the ED is necessary or if he can wait until the office is open on Monday.
Telemedicine Meets Other Challenges at Skilled Nursing Facilities
Another challenge for skilled nursing facilities is providing care for a population that has a variety of conditions and comorbidities. The majority of providers I speak with are excellent primary care providers and feel passionate about their work. However, they are not specialists in fields such as nephrology or cardiology. For many of these patients, they come in with not just one condition, but a laundry list of problems, where outcomes would be improved if under the care of not only a primary care provider but also specialists who can monitor and treat more complex diagnoses. In order to get a care team on the same page for treatment, and thus improving outcomes, telemedicine provides an easy way to connect providers from all backgrounds and ensure the treatment plan sets the patient up for long-term success.
Telemedicine Helps Geriatricians Meet Demand Remotely
Lastly, the field of medicine is seeing a shortage of geriatric providers. According to the American Geriatric Society, there will be a 45% increase in demand for geriatricians between the years of 2013 and 2025. Many people are living longer due to advances in medicine and, therefore, the elderly population is growing faster than is scalable. Many providers select other specialties, either because they are unaware of this niche or because the thought of caring for geriatric patients with many comorbidities can be daunting. Telemedicine can help in this area, especially in rural areas, as providers can still see and care for these patients, even if they are not at their bedside. This technology improves provider bandwidth and allows them to manage a larger patient census remotely.
Clearly, Telemedicine is a Valuable Tool for LTC Providers
Telemedicine can improve provider quality metrics by making providers more readily available during off-hours, reducing readmissions and ED visits. This availability allows patients to have their symptoms triaged in real-time, and also allows providers to more easily collaborate regarding patient care. Lastly, because LTC providers are often dealing with a growing elderly population, telemedicine broadens their reach and enables them to see more patients, without having to travel. While there are likely other use cases I haven’t yet covered, it’s clear that telemedicine will be a valuable tool for LTC providers.
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