Now more than ever, technology is impacting lives in unprecedented ways. From being able to work remotely from home to attending virtual weddings, technology is helping us connect to others in a world of social distancing. One such aspect that has played an integral role in the health industry is telehealth services. Just between mid-March through mid-June, over 9 million beneficiaries received telehealth services. This has allowed patients to receive the medical help they need from the safety of their homes.
During the pandemic, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded the use of telehealth services to include long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. The question that has been raised after this expansion is whether rehabilitation therapists should be allowed to provide care through telehealth or not. The argument is whether virtual care visits are sufficient for the patients. Cynthia Morton, executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long-Term Care (NASL) was quoted saying “You’re not treating a patient through the visit. You’re not able to do an evaluation of the patient.” Although e-visits would potentially help limit exposure to the virus for both the clinician and patient, leaders in the industry don’t know whether the calls will be effective. Another challenge is the availability of funds for nursing homes to allow such methods of caregiving. Such efforts require not only the acquisition of technology, but also the ability to maintain it. Timing has also been a challenging factor as to whether such practices can be safely and effectively implemented.
However, the use of telehealth services has played a vital role in providing services that patients need. It has helped to better manage transitions of care and improve patient care. Once the platforms are established, they can help to stabilize the financial status of the skilled nursing facility. More so, it is also possible to reduce Medicare penalties that are caused by unnecessary hospitalizations. Overall, the use of telemedicine can create a better business environment.
COVID-19 has dramatically affected nursing homes due to the frailty and age of the residents. The use of telehealth has allowed clinicians to care safely for the elderly from a distance. The treatment has been more effective and the need for hospital transports has been reduced.
Even after the pandemic is over, the use of telehealth services seem promising. Clinicians of long-term care facilities are usually understaffed and overwhelmed, especially during the nights and weekends. Having the platforms of telehealth in place will help ensure effective and quality care without the stress. This can also help cut costs and save time.
As COVID-19 has impacted us, we have faced challenges never conceived before. As industry leaders search for solutions, we at Cornerstone Rehab are continuously searching for innovative ways to help our clinicians and partner facilities succeed.