Study shows telemedicine reduces nursing home hospitalizations; CloudVisit Telemedicine discusses need for Medicare to catch up with technology
COLD SPRING, NY–(Marketwired – Feb 26, 2014) – When medical issues arise in nursing homes, staff members have few options. Tight budgets and physician shortages limit on-site doctor care during weekends, evenings, and holidays, leaving healthcare aides little choice but hospital transport. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), nearly half of annual nursing home hospitalizations are unnecessary. In Massachusetts, eleven nursing homes participated in a study to assess the effectiveness of telemedicine in reducing nursing home hospitalizations.
During the eleven-month study period, the use of online video appointments with nursing home residents reduced hospitalizations by as much as 11.3 percent. Researchers estimated that with greater nursing home staff engagement, each facility could cut Medicare hospitalization spending by $150,000 per year through the use of telemedicine. Two drawbacks were identified in the Massachusetts study: staff compliance and Medicare coverage. CloudVisit Telemedicine is addressing the first issue and is encouraged by proposed legislation to resolve the second.
“Telemedicine is an existing and viable solution to rising healthcare costs,” asserts Daniel Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of CloudVisit Telemedicine. “With platforms like CloudVisit, facilities can easily implement telemedicine programs, but Medicare engagement is critical to realizing the potential of telemedicine.”
Nursing homes frequently turn to hospitalization when physicians are absent from the facility. While the practice is designed to ensure patient safety, it often yields unnecessary outcomes. Routine hospital transport is an expensive protocol. Hospitalization is physically and emotionally unsettling to elderly patients and frequent episodes can be very disruptive to their families.
In the almost-yearlong study, telemedicine was implemented at each location using a videoconferencing equipment cart and a high-resolution camera. When the need arose, a remote physician, nurse practitioner, or RN provided the patient consults via online video. In total, 1,413 video appointments were conducted across six facilities, with an average of 235.5 sessions per facility (five non-participating facilities served as a control group). Results varied by location and researchers believe staff compliance played a key role.
“Telemedicine success does require some procedural shifts,” acknowledges Gilbert. “With CloudVisit, the transition is eased by our simple interface and intuitive scheduling tools, and there’s no need for cumbersome equipment. All it takes to establish a secure provider-to-patient connection is a few simple clicks on a laptop.”
Pricing disparity is another key factor when selecting a nursing home telemedicine platform. While the study does not say which telemedicine provider was used, the price tag is listed as $30,000 per facility. A comparable video connectivity solution could be implemented via CloudVisit for a third of the cost, including technical support and software updates.
“It’s important for facilities to focus in on the functionality and equipment that will support their telemedicine goals. Paying for unnecessary features and equipment is obviously not efficient and a cumbersome platform will interfere with end user adoption,” said Gilbert.
Finally, a key take-away from the study is Medicare’s relationship — or lack thereof — with telemedicine. It seems critical that Medicare and Medicaid find a way to make telemedicine integration financially beneficial to themselves and to individual providers and facilities. Currently, proposed legislature aims to do just that. Collectively, the Tele-Med Act, the Telehealth Modernization Act, and the Telehealth Enhancement Act seek to improve nationwide access to telemedicine providers and expand Medicare and Medicaid coverage of medical services provided via online video consultations.