Nursing Homes Implementing Telehealth Technologies Reported Reduced Strain, Improved Safety, and Increased Convenience
Source: Powell, Kimberly and Alexander, Gregory. “Consequences of Rapid Telehealth Expansion in Nursing Homes: Promise and Pitfalls,” University of Missouri, October 2021.
Commentary: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes instantly and widely adopted telehealth services to protect high-risk populations from contracting the virus. While greatly increasing information and communication technology (ICT) usage in nursing homes could prove daunting for residents unfamiliar with the latest technology, a new study from the University of Missouri has found that nursing homes enjoyed several benefits from telehealth beyond reduced exposure to COVID-19.
University researchers compiled qualitative data from interviews with 21 nursing home administrators and clinicians across 16 facilities and found that care providers reported a number of improved outcomes. By providing remote care through telehealth resources, nursing homes found common benefits of avoiding travel (for sensitive residents for whom moving would impose greater physical and health burdens), saving organizational resources, improving access to care, and enhancing communication to health providers. Telehealth infrastructure allows real-time communication with residents’ doctors as their conditions change. And while telehealth helps protect elderly patients from COVID-19, there are countless other health complications seniors can avoid by reducing travel with telehealth.
The report also finds some frictional challenges to increased telehealth, such as usability for cognitively impaired patients. However, today’s issues related to patients’ levels of comfort with the technology and accessibility can ideally be bridged with future technology innovations in the way we provide care. Alongside this progress in senior care, medical and policy officials must ensure health-care systems do not become overloaded amid the pandemic. Increasing adoption of telehealth in nursing homes for seniors is essential for reducing strain.