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Protecting Skilled Nursing Facilities Against COVID-19 Using Telehealth

Apr 27, 2020 | Telemedicine Blog

Telehealth has expanded dramatically over the past decade, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, its presence in the modern healthcare landscape is more important than ever.

To slow the spread of a pandemic, we are all aware it’s crucial for the public to limit unnecessary travel and practice social distancing. While this can be a smoother transition for some, many at-risk populations, like those with pre-existing conditions or the elderly, still need scheduled medical services to maintain their health.

Telemedicine is the solution to protecting high-risk patients and the staff at Skilled Nursing Facilities, during the current Coronavirus pandemic. It is the saving grace that allows vulnerable populations to continue to receive quality care without leaving the safety of their facilities.

An ageing population leaves more people at risk

By 2060, the Population Reference Bureau predicts the number of Americans aged 65 and older will double. With an increase in retirees, there also comes the need for more SNFs to handle the influx of a population with more medical needs.

While SNFs are a crucial component of providing specialty healthcare for the elderly, they also pose problems when a pandemic strikes. As we have seen with a highly contagious COVID-19 disease, all it takes is one staff member or resident to become exposed and the entire facility can be compromised.

As the elderly are considered the most at-risk of developing serious complications from this pandemic, and are more susceptible to getting ill in general, it’s crucial to protect SNFs before a contagious disease overwhelms their workers and the broader healthcare system.

One of the best ways to protect SNFs is to close them off to the public, but creating a safe bubble isn’t always practical. Many of these patients still need to meet with their off-site physicians for important check-ups and diagnoses. Implementing telehealth solutions allows SNFs to continue providing quality care to their residents while drastically minimizing their chances of exposure to contagious diseases.

How telemedicine is applied in SNFs

Telemedicine programs and telehealth solutions are designed to help healthcare professionals treat patients remotely when or as needed. Seamless virtual communication in real-time between a nurse at a SNF and an off-site physician aided by diagnostic tools allows patients to receive the specialty care they require without ever leaving the safety of the facility.

In fact, the applications and benefits of telemedicine in SNFs have already been proven time and time again. When telehealth solutions are readily available among at-risk communities like SNFs, hospital readmission rates can be drastically reduced. This not only helps SNFs, but it takes pressure off the overwhelmed hospitals treating pandemic patients.

Connecting with remote doctors and specialists during COVID-19 helps aide SNFs in their efforts at closing off their facilities to slow the spread of a pandemic. Patients can still receive access to the care they need without leaving the facility and being exposed to germs. Likewise, specialized physicians can avoid being exposed themselves, so they can stay healthy and continue caring for patients

Telemedicine has proven itself to be a crucial component of slowing the spread of a pandemic by allowing populations to receive proper medical care without contributing or becoming exposed to the disease.

Skilled Nursing Facilities can receive help

As the government continues to understand new facts about how telehealth can protect the nation’s most vulnerable populations during a pandemic, lawmakers are taking actions to make it more accessible. Medicare has expanded its coverage of telehealth services for the time being in response to the cur         rent health emergency across the country. From virtual visits with a primary care physician to preventative health screenings, coverage of telehealth services is helping patients prioritize their wellness while complying with social distancing rules.

When patients have the comprehensive insurance to cover telehealth, healthcare providers can do more to provide care from a distance. This effort has also been aided by the FCC launching two unique funding programs to support facilities needing to expand their virtual care offerings.

The ATA reported on a recent policy update announcing the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Connected Care Pilot Program, which are designed to fund eligible healthcare providers to purchase telecommunications and connected devices. Skilled nursing facilities are one of the types of providers eligible for this program that can help them quickly ramp up their telehealth offerings for their residents.

AMD Global Telemedicine delivers quality telehealth solutions that can help you deploy virtual care capabilities quickly for the benefit of your SNF and patients. Learn more about partnering with AMD Global Telemedicine by reaching out to us today.

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