The people we know who run long-term facilities are fantastic folks. They're creative, caring, and clear-eyed. The need to be, too, because the pressures they face in providing long-term care grow every day:
- Access to specialists is shrinking.
- Regulatory parameters get stricter (and sometimes less logical) every day.
- New changes with the Affordable Care Act create both pressure and uncertainty.
Even when everything is going smoothly for the patient, costs can be difficult to manage. But when a patient needs to be brought to a visit with a medical provider, or a series of visits with medical providers, costs can really soar.
Of course, studies have repeatedly shown that telehealth can help bring down the cost of these types of incidents. For instance, the January 27, 2001 article in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing showed that for a rural nursing home, telehealth reduced the cost of the consult by half.
In our experience, however, the cost of the consult is negligible when compared to the full set of costs incurred when someone in long-term care gets sent to the ER or the doctor.
These are a few examples of the problems with a "let's just send her to the doctor or the ER" approach:
- Patients often experience pain, frustration, and discomfort when traveling to receive care.
- Aides need to attend, often shaking up schedules and complicating care for other patients.
- Concommitant issues like dementia can be exacerbated when a patient is removed from her routine and home.
- The family must also attend (or be excluded from the information and decisions at the visit), causing:
- Missed work.
- Distraction and stress.
What benefits have you found in using telemedicine in long term care? What costs are you beginning to notice when it's not used? We look forward to learning from your experience in the comments below.
And for our review of the options, pros, and cons of telemedicine options, get our Quick Guide here:
Image courtesy of bestrated1 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.