More than 75% of all Americans who are above the age of 65 are obliged to live with multiple chronic medical conditions, and as a result, in excess of 90% of all Medicare fee-for-service spending is allocated toward these patients who have two or more chronic medical conditions. It has become more important than ever for long-term care facilities to reduce the number of re-admissions to the hospital, since this has become an area of concern for Medicare.
Even without hospital re-admissions, there are significant challenges faced by caregivers at these long-term care organizations simply to provide needed services to the growing number of individuals who require them. The increasing use of telemedicine has been a godsend to long-term care, because it can provide services to the vast numbers who need it, without having to make formal office visits. This, in turn, results in improved care to affected individuals, and enhances their quality of life.
How telemedicine helps with long-term care
A number of studies have been conducted to evaluate the success of telemedicine in treating patients affected by stroke, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic medical conditions. A thorough review of a large number of these studies has been undertaken, and the evidence clearly demonstrates that there have been significantly measurable improvements in the medical outcomes experienced by patients.
This includes far fewer cases where a medical condition actually worsened, lower mortality rates, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a significantly lower number of re-admissions to the hospital. With long-term caregivers under severe pressure to deliver quality healthcare while still effectively managing risk and keeping hospital re-admissions to a minimum, telemedicine has more than adequately stepped in to provide a very viable solution.
Efficiencies at long-term care facilities
One of the most effective examples of how telemedicine can improve outcomes for patients with multiple chronic conditions are those situations occurring right now at some facilities. Ordinarily, patients with multiple chronic conditions need to have face-to-face encounters with a physician in order for adequate care to be delivered, but most long-term care facilities do not have a medical professional on hand throughout the entire day.
However, through telemedicine, an on-site nurse can quickly contact a doctor when some kind of intervention is necessary for a patient. A video-conference session can be established so that the doctor can examine the patient in real-time, while the nurse provides necessary medical data and any vital signs requested by the doctor. This scenario is as close to a face-to-face encounter as the real thing, and since a qualified nurse practitioner is in attendance at the session as well, virtually every kind of medical test or information-gathering can be accomplished as needed.
Current advances in telemedicine and long-term care
There are now new software platforms available for telemedicine which incorporate live streaming two-way video, medical tools which are digitally connected to the session, and sophisticated programs of analytics to help with the treatment of patients considered to be high risk. Many patients who are afflicted with chronic conditions like COPD or congestive heart failure are subject to sudden changes in their conditions, and these often require immediate medical attention at a long-term care facility.
The advanced telemedicine platforms of today can detect these changes faster than ever before, so that medical professionals or consultants can be alerted immediately and treatment can be administered. This reduces or eliminates the need for transfers or for re-admissions to the hospital, which was one of the primary goals of long-term care to begin with. It also saves time and money in medical transportation services. In addition, patients have far greater access to physicians, with treatment programs being far less stressful, so that patients are generally much more satisfied with treatment, and so are their families.
Apart from the tremendous value provided to patients, telemedicine at long-term care facilities has also been able to generate increased financial success and stability, due to the direct revenues obtained from reimbursement, as well as the lower penalties imposed for hospital re-admissions. It’s also true that operating costs at these facilities can be significantly reduced because of the telemedicine services made available, which can appreciably lower the number of direct interventions by physicians.
With long-term care facilities constantly needing to improve the quality of their delivered care, especially among patients with multiple chronic conditions, telemedicine is providing a sorely needed answer to problems with financial stability and delivering improved outcomes to patients.
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