SNFs Have Overcome Telemedicine’s Challenges

A recent Associated Press story, (“Telemedicine's challenge: Getting patients to click the app,” Feb. 6), discusses how most traditional health-care patients have been slow to embrace virtual care and other high-tech ways to get diagnosed and treated remotely. The article drew a lot of attention.

Changing behavior can be hard. And while some are slow to adapt, others are finding enthusiasm for the new model of care, where patients interact with doctors and nurses through secure video connection and find help quickly for ailments that aren't emergencies.

One sector that has embraced telemedicine is rural nursing home care. In fact, their embrace of this technology totally upends the premises of the Associated Press story.

We have seen it firsthand at Tapestry Telehealth. Launched over a year ago, our innovative new telemedicine model is quickly taking hold and now operates in dozens of rural facilities across Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and more.

The reasons are pretty simple.

Having daily virtual access to an on-site medical team helps to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations when medical conditions change. That reduces the need for long, costly and uncomfortable trips outside the facilities for basic evaluations or specialty consults. And there are no more delays waiting for physician callbacks or open appointments with specialists. Care is delivered at the bedside, quickly.

There is medical evidence that telemedicine delivers, too.

With TapestryCare™, for example, facilities gain a dedicated nurse practitioner who works virtually with on-site nursing teams as part of regular and scheduled rounds. Dedicated practitioners get to know the patients as well as the staff. That consistency of care improves health outcomes.

A study published in the June 2018 issue of the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine finds that having an embedded advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) improves the quality measure (QM) scores of nursing homes. The findings are significant for rural nursing homes whose locations make it difficult to attract and retain full-time, in-house APRNs without telemedicine.

Similarly, findings of a study reported in August 2018 in The American Journal of Managed Care® show that using telemedicine at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) can reduce hospitalizations and produce savings for Medicare. The study was led by Dr. David Chess, founder, president and chief medical officer of Tapestry Telehealth.

Innovation is happening all around us --- and with telemedicine, it’s helping us to get healthy and stay healthy as well.