What is the role of telemedicine in long-term care facilities?

by | Jul 2, 2015 | Blog

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Doctors and nurses who think of telemedicine often form the same mental image of the concept – clinics and practices consulting with patients using telemedicine technology, doing diagnostic interviews or providing specialty care for those in inaccessible areas.

These are all important applications of telemedicine that have been at the forefront of its development in recent years. However, there’s another application that can benefit just as much from this evolving technology: long-term care facilities. The unique advantages telemedicine technology offers can be of particular use to the type of care needed by assisted living facility residents and patients in similar long-term clinics.

Hospital readmission rates are particularly high among seniors.

Reducing readmissions

Hospital readmissions constitute one of the most significant costs for long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, it’s also a growing concern, and an issue that many facilities have difficulty managing. According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average rate of readmission to hospitals within a 30-day period was 19 percent between 2007 and 2011. These figures are even higher when looking just at senior populations. The Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare noted that 1 of every 8 senior patients were readmitted within 30 days after a surgery, while even more – 1 in 6 – were readmitted for nonsurgical reasons.

Telemedicine can help ease this burden by removing the need for patients to return to the hospital in many cases. In fact, Long Term Living indicated that around one-fourth of the 40 percent of senior living residents who are transferred to a hospital could avoid a hospital stay through the application of telemedicine technology. Similarly, those who are discharged back to their living facilities can receive the same medical consultations via video conference and other telemedicine technology as they could in-house, saving the facility and the hospital money in transportation costs. The source predicted that the reduction in readmissions just among patients experiencing congestive heart failure alone could lead to a nationwide savings of $10.1 billion.

“Senior living residents often have a higher need for regular healthcare.”

Increasing accessibility

Senior living residents often have a higher need for regular healthcare than other individuals, due in large part to the prevalence of chronic health conditions among the senior population. However, in many instances seniors may be homebound due to illness or injury, or transportation to a care facility may not be available. Long-term care clinics and residential facilities that partner with telemedicine technology companies can ensure that this contingent of the population doesn’t have to compromise its access to healthcare – in fact, consultations are even easier thanks to the usability of the technology.

Telemedicine technology is a tool for healthcare providers to complement their practice of care and extend their reach to see more patients and improve the quality of follow-up care. Many patients at long-term care facilities benefit from the use of telemedicine for outpatient care as well. Now thanks to telemedicine, senior patients don’t have to be removed – or even removed again – from their familiar environment for a medical check-up that can be easily done using telemedicine encounter management software and real-time medical devices.

This benefits not just residents and staff members, but clinicians and employees of these long-term care facilities. The reduction in nursing home admissions and rehospitalizations means that staffers at these facilities are free to see more patients, leading to an increase in care quality as well as money saved that would otherwise be spent on unnecessary in-person visits.

Visit www.amdtelemedicine.com to learn how you can begin thinking about your own custom telemedicine solution.

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