CRANBURY, N.J. – Telehealth has helped skilled nursing facilities avoid hospital visits, according to a study published recently in The American Journal of Managed Care.
The study by TripleCare physicians’ group and the Targeting Revolutionary Elder Care Solutions Institute found that when doctors could be reached after hours via telehealth to decide whether a patient in a skilled nursing facility should be hospitalized, 29% of the patients avoided a hospital visit, saving more than $1.55 million over the course of a year.
“As nursing facilities are called upon to care for higher-acuity patients and drive better clinical outcomes at a fraction of the cost of a hospitalization, systems that deliver better quality physicians to the bedside at times of a change of condition will be required,” wrote Dr. David Chess, one of the study’s authors. “By leveraging technology, we can improve the quality of both primary and acute care in nursing facilities, transforming care and often preventing the trauma associated with hospitalization in the elderly.”
Nurses called a toll-free number if they needed a physician to evaluate a change in patient condition, such as fever, chest pain, or shortness of breath. If the patient needed a physical exam, the telehealth unit would be placed bedside, and the physician and nurse collaborated on the exam. Physicians were also able to access patient electronic health records.
In one year, 313 patients were cared for by physicians via telehealth and 259 were treated at the skilled nursing facility, including 91 who avoided hospitalization, Chess wrote.