More than two years after the first cases of COVID-19 were identified, the healthcare industry is still struggling to deal with the effects of the pandemic. The disease has caused many significant changes to how healthcare is administered and managed, particularly in the long-term care industry. Nursing staff have been pushed to the breaking point and beyond, and even nursing home insurance companies have scrambled to keep up.
One solution to deal with some of these challenges is telemedicine. Nowadays, more and more nursing care facilities and medical professionals are relying on modern communications technology to circumvent COVID-related obstacles to administering essential care services.
But the greater reliance on telehealth poses new challenges of its own. Not all medical personnel and patients are onboard with the new technology, and many nursing home residents don’t even have their own video devices.
There is also some resistance to the new way of providing care. Elderly patients may be distrustful of the remote delivery of care and follow-up services, and even medical professionals may be reluctant to rely too heavily on telehealth technology.
Even so, telemedicine is here to stay, and the sooner care professionals and their patients acknowledge its usefulness, the better the quality of nursing services can be.
Strategies for easing the transition to telemedicine
Here are some ways your clients can facilitate the process of transitioning to telemedicine in a nursing home:
Coordinate with nursing staff and administrators
Everyone involved in administering or overseeing telehealth services should be on the same page with regard to how the system will be implemented. It is always a good idea to formulate a cohesive plan to ensure that services are delivered effectively and resources are utilized efficiently. Now would also be a good time to ensure the availability of video devices for telecare personnel.
Designate a point person for telemedicine services
Having a dedicated liaison for all telemedicine concerns can make it easier for patients to utilize these services. Assigning one or two staff members to these duties also minimizes contact between staff and residents, thereby reducing the risk of disease transmission and infection.
Spread out telemedicine sessions strategically
It is important not to overburden the telehealth liaison and anyone else responsible for administering telemedicine services. As the new system becomes the norm, your clients can expect these services to use up more time and resources. It is generally more beneficial to schedule limited sessions at certain times rather than making the service available throughout the day.
Address technical and practical obstacles
Your clients can expect to encounter numerous technical and practical obstacles to setting up a telehealth system and even after it is up and running. Issues such as the availability of computers, tablets, and smartphones will have to be addressed in order to ensure the proper delivery of telehealth services.
Train staff on specific issues
The success of your client’s telehealth program relies considerably on how quickly the nursing care staff adapts to the new system. Many facilities find it beneficial to have their employees undergo training programs specifically designed to instruct and guide them on telemedicine policies and procedures. In some cases, it might even be necessary to augment the initial training and orientation program with periodic refresher seminars on an ‘as-needed’ basis.
Inform everyone about Medicare requirements
There are specific Medicare requirements that nursing care facilities should conform to in order to provide telehealth services. Everyone involved with the administration of these services should be aware of the organization’s telemedicine facility fee, especially as it pertains to providing such services for the duration of the public health crisis.
Seek out funding sources for telemedicine services
Instituting a telehealth system from scratch can be a costly endeavor. It is crucial to ensure the availability of the funds early on in the process and seek alternative sources of funding if necessary. Skilled nursing care facilities may be eligible for financial aid from government organizations under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act.
Implementing telemedicine services is no longer an option, but a necessity. Like all new procedures, it will take a while before it can be utilized efficiently in a nursing care environment. But putting some time and effort into making it work will enable your clients to reap the full benefits of this innovative service.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.