Telemedicine for nursing homes: how it benefits elder patients

Nursing homes have become more and more reliable for older people and their families. Their purpose has developed through the years, from a simple national framework to a standard form of care concerning elders’ life quality. This changed due to increased life expectancy (the average increased from 68 to 73 in the past 20 years) and the evolution of the caring sector.

Nowadays, a nursing facility provides medical benefits with nurses and assistants monitoring elders’ general health and also physicians doing physical therapy sessions. Occupational therapy is necessary to recover after an injury or  illness so that one may reintegrate into society by practicing a safe transition. There’s also a special recreational staff in nursing homes to engage elders in activities like birthday parties, exercise, pet therapy, etc.

The latest service for nursing homes is telemedicine. It allows doctors to diagnose and treat patients through telecommunication technology without a physical consultation. With current devices, telemedicine has become one of the most advantageous care services, and it has many benefits for seniors.

Financial benefits

Older patients have more difficulties with age to move around in order to have proper consultations and rely on medical insurance to cover their health problems. Moreover, people that live in rural areas have more trouble going to the closest city for consultations or emergencies. For them, one perk of telemedicine is cutting travel expenses. It’s also helping patients who are not able to move or have trouble walking and need special vehicles that are more expensive.

Besides that, the health costs will be lower. Constantly checking up with your doctor and having fast access to professional advice can reduce hospitalization by as much as 70%. Many health issues can be treated through telemedicine, with the most common diagnoses being pneumonia, hypotension or hypoglycemia.

Insurance companies also work with nursing homes; therefore, most diagnoses and video consultations are covered. So, there’s no need to worry about the additional costs of telemedicine, because it uses technology to identify any health issues.

Easy access to health services

Over one billion people are diagnosed with some form of disability worldwide, and the number is constantly increasing due to the rising number of chronic health conditions (heart diseases, cancer and diabetes). Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often confronted with stigma, prejudice and discrimination. At the same time, some facilities are not adequately equipped with accessible stairs, toilets, doorways and furniture to meet special needs.

But with telemedicine, these problems are not an impediment anymore. Having an appointment with your doctor from the comfort of your own home means less trouble and more time to get the right treatment. You’ll have more access to health services, including disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Nursing facilities can focus more on proper elder care through remote telehealth care, provide patient satisfaction, and avoid exposure to illnesses and infections from other medical facilities.

Improved communication

Most medical errors are a result of miscommunication. Transferring patients also means passing on the information about their condition to another healthcare professional. If the communication process is not done correctly, the risks of inappropriate treatment in the hospital might harm the patient’s overall health.

The medical staff uses healthcare handoff communication to avoid miscommunication regarding patients’ information about health history, treatments, and any necessary verifications. Plus, using digital devices (aside from communicating) makes it easier to identify patients with higher risks of readmission to the hospital and prevent infections.

At the same time, it’s easier for patients to open up about their problems if they’re in a comfortable environment. Going to an unknown environment and meeting new people might be overwhelming and can cause stress. Therefore, having a video conference or a call with a doctor from their house or nursing home could be a pleasant experience.

Early interventions

One of the most overlooked aspects of medicine is early intervention and prevention. Because most of the time, symptoms are not showing, patients think that there’s nothing to worry about. For example, unhealthy behaviors don’t affect the body immediately, therefore no signs of illness. At the same time, changes in behavior always might precede signs of health troubles. Extreme mood changes, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior might lead to:

  • mental disorders (anxiety, depression)
  • body disorders (kidney and liver failures)
  • brain complications (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, seizures)

These can be avoided through early interventions that can be done through telemedicine. It’s easier to make an appointment and virtually participate and get a diagnosis, therefore facilitating prevention. Early investigation can limit stress and expenses, as much as better treatment and more changes to fully recover. If patients become aware of the issue and have easy access to doctors’ advice, many health problems can be avoided.

Lower hospitalization rates

Hospitalization rates started to lower in the past years, but due to COVID-19, these rates blew up overnight, and now they’re low again. The pandemic was a big responsibility for hospitals. The increasing number of patients led to longer stay and recovery time in the hospitals, which eventually influenced wound, bloodstream and chest infections. Remember that older people are more prone to infections because their immune system is weak.

Lowering hospitalization rates can be done by implementing telemedicine in more healthcare facilities. This technology can ease the workflow of hospitals and clinics by knowing the exact information needed in a short time about monitoring discharged patients and managing their recovery. Of course, telemedicine does not substitute physical consultations, especially when it comes to more complex diagnoses. This technology aims to help the healthcare system and save time and patients.

The conclusion is that telemedicine is the best tool for improving the healthcare field. Patients, especially older ones, benefit from telemedicine because it allows them to cut expenses and engage in fast and reliable communication with their doctors. It’s also a great asset for healthcare professionals, as it simplifies the medical examination process and strengthens the bond between them and patients. For nursing homes, it’s important to keep every patient healthy and happy. That’s why besides the daily activities helping their general health and conditions, they need health monitoring which is safer to do through telecommunication.