Telehealth And Senior Living
Telehealth, telemedicine, virtual care, eConsult, store-and-forwardwhat does this all mean? More importantly, how do you better serve your resident populations in a global pandemic and onward? Telehealth is a broad term that seems to get caught in a tangled web of policy, compliance, and reimbursement. However, telehealth brings incredible promise to our highest risk populations in this pandemic, and has transformational implications for the way healthcare will be delivered even once the pandemic is behind us.
Effective use of telehealth can result in reductions in ER visits, readmissions, and unnecessary COVID-19 exposures, while empowering front-line staff and improving the resident and family experience altogether. Telehealth has the potential to drive immense value for residents and providers alike within seniors housing. It may feel like this vision is a long way off, but the solutions are ready and available operators need only understand what their options are and thus what best fits with their priorities.
A Brief History
Telehealth can simply be defined as care delivered via virtual communication between patients and healthcare providers or providers to other providers.
There are many vendors offering a variety of telehealth solutions in todays market. it is important to understand the defining variables that sit behind the vast array of options.
Telehealth and Senior Care
Transforming Geriatric Care With Telehealth
As we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the healthcare industry drastically. All care that could be done without an in-person interaction was transitioned to a virtual visit. One group that is reaping major benefits from this digital health model are seniors living independently, those in skilled nursing facilities, or those in assisted living facilities.
In this blog, we are going to discuss the ways telehealth is transforming geriatric care including the benefits it brings to patients and staff, the technology advancements the industry is utilizing, and what this all means for skilled nursing and assisted living facilities of the future.
Without further ado, letâs jump in!
Vital Support For Caregivers
For caregivers who commit time and money to caring for an aging loved one, telemedicine can be a valuable lifeline. From a merely practical standpoint, it helps ease the burden of traveling for provider visits. Caregivers with full-time jobs can avoid taking excessive time off work to chauffeur a senior to appointments. Moreover, these services empower family members by giving them more opportunities to ask questions and take a proactive role in their loved ones care and recovery.
- One study found that the use of telehealth care in conjunction with discharge planning can help reduce strain on family caregivers, enhance stress mastery and improve family function during the first 30 days after a heart failure patient is discharged from the hospital.7
- At the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois, telemedicine offers support for people caring for loved ones with chronic diseases.8 Medical monitoring services allow for the transmission and review of critical patient information, thereby reducing the number of in-person visits needed. Caregivers can also receive direct, personalized guidance from a registered nurse when they need it, rather than having to wait for in-office visits to speak to a professional.
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What Do I Need For Telehealth Services
Home health care equipment can help doctors who are working remotely make diagnoses, prescribe medications and create care plans for patients. Depending on the reason for a seniors telehealth visit, it is a good idea to have in-home diagnostic equipment, such as a thermometer, a blood pressure monitor, a heart rate monitor, and a pulse oximeter handy during the appointment. This enables patients to provide physicians with up to date information about their vital signs like body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Doctors can instruct patients on how to take their own measurements without this equipment as well.
Of course, a senior needs an electronic device with certain features and broadband internet access to take full advantage of telehealth services. A video-capable computer, smart phone or tablet is ideal for telemedicine, since it facilitates communication between health care providers and patients and provides doctors with valuable visual information that they cannot gather through a telephone conversation. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have expanded coverage of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries who only have audio phones.
Preparing An Older Adult For Telehealth: The First Appointment
It can be hard for some seniors to adjust to online appointments. After all, many of them are not very familiar with the technology. So, its important to spend a few minutes with them before their appointment to help them understand how it all works. Besides that, here are some things you can do to prepare for a successful appointment.
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New Medicare Advantage Telehealth Policies A Big Win For Senior Living
Recently finalized Medicare Advantage policy changes will likely bring more telehealth services to senior living communities.
Under the new policies, finalized on April 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services , Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to cover telehealth services that originate from beneficiaries homes such as an independent living or assisted living community rather than a health care facility.
Thats a big win in a lot of ways, Amy Kaszak, president of Special Needs Plans at AllyAlign Health, told Senior Housing News. AllyAlign specializes in helping senior living and care providers design, launch and run their own MA plans, and works with clients such as and The Perennial Consortium.
In another policy shift, MA plans will be able to offer telehealth services as a core benefit rather than a supplemental benefit, which will give them more options for how to underwrite this coverage and should expand availability. These changes will take effect starting in plan year 2020.
Senior living providers and MA payers still have many logistical and financial considerations to work out in light of these new flexibilities, which come as an increasing number of senior living providers are establishing their own MA plans or devising strategies to work with existing Medicare Advantage insurers.
Big potential, slow adoption
However, within the framework of traditional fee-for-service Medicare, CMS has expanded the scope of telehealth benefits slowly.
Telehealth Adds New Dimensions To Assisted Living
Good Samaritan Society Finds Creative Ways to Harness Technology to Serve Residents
Nursing homes, residential rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities have been some of the hardest hit groups during COVID-19. Not only did many of these facilities worry about the fragile state of many of their residents health, but they had to find ways to provide all care with little to no interaction from the outside world.
The Evangelical Good Samaritan Society, a post-acute rehabilitation and assisted living facility in Lakota, North Dakota, found creative ways to not only provide quality healthcare during this time, but also to use virtual technology to provide their residents with the connections they so very much needed.
Good Samaritan Societys assisted living facility
Acute and Routine Healthcare
Like most assisted living facilities, Good Sam did not allow outside providers into its buildings for an extended period of time, which meant that regular rounds with providers had to be conducted virtually.
I had my hesitations at the beginning, said Hayley Ross, director of nursing at Good Sam in Lakota. I soon realized that the residents recognized their providers during the video calls and were able to talk with them through a screen like speaking with a friend. It worked out well.
Helping a Resident Through a Difficult Time
Nurse taking vital signs of a patient
Technology Connects Residents to Community At-Large
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The Future Of Telehealth Services
This industry still faces several challenges, including legal and regulatory issues, privacy and confidentiality, as well as reimbursement protocols. However, for seniors and those involved in their care, the future appears bright.
In 2015, Medicare extended beneficiary coverage to telehealth services, including annual wellness visits and mental health services.9 The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs also uses telemedicine to monitor and treat older veterans who have limited mobility and/or chronic illnesses that make it difficult or impossible for them to leave home for medical appointments. These services can also prevent or delay an older veterans placement in a skilled nursing facility.
Alerting And Limitting Consequences
To allow older people to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible, its important to secure living places extensively. Detectors can be fitted that not only trigger alarms in the event of gas, fire and water related emergencies, but also cut off the appropriate supply automatically in each case.
The new digital carephone developed by neat
Presentation of our new digital telecare terminal designed from beginning to end in an intelligent way and where the technology is at the service of the healthcare sector and offer more independence and security to elderly people.
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Activity Monitoring And Fall Detection
Rythmos monitors residents daily activity, including how much time they spend up and moving around.
Sensors in the room tell staff when a resident is walking around or when they leave their living quarters. The system will also alert staff if a resident is inactive for a preset period of time.
Rythmos can track activity changes, such as an increase or decrease in movement, or more or fewer button presses, said Tzirimis. For instance, a resident may not report multiple trips to the bathroom, which could signal the beginning of a urinary tract infection.
Our Strategy: Developing Dedicated Products
To support people suffering from a loss of independence, Legrand develops products that guarantee the safety of vulnerable people. These assisted living solutions offer simplified access to a building’s systems. They also facilitate relations with the social environment. The aim is to allow users to stay in their own home longer, keeping them and those around them safe and secure.
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Telehealth And The Future Of Long
Join us on Wednesday, April 7 for further discussion of these issues during our virtual event, Triumphs & Tensions of the Telehealth Boom.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend away from providing health care and long-term care in institutional settings in ways not previously imagined the result of a reckoning with the massacre that disproportionately killed hundreds of thousands of older adults living in nursing homes or similar congregate facilities, along with the staff who cared for them.
Beyond the immediate staffing and infection control issues at hand, this juncture leads to a larger question, in the U.S. and abroad: how can we best care for an older population in the decades and not just years ahead?
The major advances and shortfalls that have surfaced during the pandemic around telehealth and its related technologies in digital home health care are essential to this discussion.
Among Medicare beneficiaries , nearly half of all primary care visits were provided by telehealth in April 2020, compared to less than one percent before the public health emergency in February 2020. The use of telehealth services among older adults skyrocketed, largely due to relaxing legal and regulatory measures and expanding the existing Medicare telehealth benefit, including:
We are at a critical point with whether to make these temporary changes permanent and, if so, then how to optimally implement them when the declared public health emergency ends.
Mental Health In Individuals With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities
Research has shown that individuals with IDD may experience a higher rate mental health conditions and behaviors. These co-occurring conditions may include:
- Mood disorders such as Depression or Bipolar Disorder
- Anxiety Disorders
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Psychotic Disorders
Often, patients with IDD may be misdiagnosed with a mental health condition due to misattributed symptoms and behaviors. Misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate medication use such as the over-prescribing of high-risk antipsychotics for behavior control when non-pharmacologic options fail.
How MediTelecare Can Help
MediTelecare providers are trained in appropriately diagnosing and treating individuals with IDD and co-occurring mental health conditions and behaviors. This ensures that patients are being treated with appropriate and safer medications and non-pharmacologic options lowering the risk for negative outcomes such as hospitalizations and medication side effects.
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Suggestions For Implementing Telehealth
Even though the use of telehealth at SNFs has yet to pick up full steam, certain factors may facilitate the process of adopting this particular type of program. When deciding how to implement telehealth in these settings, we encourage SNFs to think about the following:
- Know when to use telehealth services at your facility.
- Pick and train the right professionals to use telehealth.
- Make sure the right equipment is in place.
- Prep locations to offer and conduct telehealth services.
In addition to these suggestions, its important to be familiar with federal, state and payer regulations related to telehealth before you start using telehealth in your SNF.
Looking at the big picture, were reminded that in the SNF world its not about saving money and reducing cost what matters is the contact between the therapist and the patient. While it remains to be seen how telehealth will best fit in this new normal of sorts, ongoing efforts are being made to ensure both therapists and patients alike can benefit from this wave of technology where individuals may not need to rely so heavily on face-to-face interactions.
Learn how Optima Therapy for Skilled Nursing Facilities & Senior Living can help you better manage SNFs workflows and efficiencies with an all-in-one specialized EHR solution.
Staff Tracking And Responding
A big thing for a lot of communities is making sure that care is responsive, said Tzirimis, and Rythmos strives to achieve that goal.
When a resident activates the alert system, staff get a notification on a handheld mobile device. The staff member can then connect with the resident and assess the situation.
Probably 60% to 70% of calls for help are non-urgent, said Tzirimis, but others require immediate action.
Once the situation has been assessed, staff can verify that someone has responded to the resident and addressed their needs. When the encounter is complete, the Rythmos system then stores all the data for reference.
Caregivers can document what the purpose of that trip was, said Tzirimis. They can tell if a patient is utilizing more than necessary care, or having more medical needs.
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Transition Into Telemedicine Made Easy
Telehealth technology allows clinicians to enjoy the convenience of working from home, or a private office setting, while delivering the behavioral health services directly to clients even in different states.
We offer our clinicians a desirable work/life balance with a weekday work schedule that is not shift-focused, starting anywhere between 7:00am-9:30am, with both part-time and full-time opportunities.
MediTelecare has developed a standardized training program which ensures that all clinicians will have education on the MediTelecare Clinical Model, psychiatric disorders in the geriatric population, clinical protocols for evaluation and treatment, documentation in the EHR, and more.
You will be supported in your continued professional development through available mentorship, webinar training and customized online training, which include some CEU programs.
Telemedicines Impact On Assisted Living Facilities
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses how telemedicine has begun to transform the healthcare industry. As a result of increased Internet speed, the use of smartphones and changing insurance standards, increasingly more health providers are turning to electronic communications to consult with and treat patients. At the same time, patients are using new devices to relay their blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions at home. In fact, the WSJ article cites that more than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely last year, according to the American Telemedicine Association, a trade group, which expects those numbers to grow by 30% this year.
Additionally, senior living residents often have a higher need for regular health care than other individuals because of the prevalence of chronic health conditions among an aged population. However, in many instances seniors may be homebound due to illness or injury, or transportation to a care facility may not be available. Long-term care clinics and residential facilities that partner with telemedicine technology companies can ensure that these seniors dont compromise their access to healthcare. In fact, consultations may be even easier thanks to the usability of the telemedicine technology.
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Why Communities Are Adopting Telehealth Options For Seniors
Senior living continues to adapt and change to meet the needs of current and future residents. Telehealth is one-way communities are using technology to help improve residents health and wellness, including:
- Heart care follow-up: After congestive heart failure, telehealth can allow doctors to monitor medications, diet, physical activity and stress levels.
- Primary care access: Residents who have mobility issues due to arthritis or Parkinsons disease can use telehealth to consult with health care providers on a variety of primary issues and concerns, including joint pain, muscle stiffness, medications, and accident management and prevention.
- Greater patient visibility: Your loved ones personal doctor is able to keep up with recent medical events or new medications to more effectively manage their care.
A Closer Look At Telehealth: What Is It And How Can Seniors Use It
Posted on March 14, 2022
Telehealth is a service that takes advantage of technology to help you communicate with your doctor from home rather than at their office. Telehealth can be very useful for older people, especially those who have difficulty moving from place to place or those in senior living communities. Its also beneficial for those who live in rural areas since it would be hard for them to travel to see a doctor. Instead, with telehealth, they can just talk to their doctor online through the phone or any other kind of device. The result is that they will have an easier, faster, and cheaper way to get the help they need.
Telehealth can even help caregivers, too. A caregiver provides care to a person, usually a loved one. The caregiver may or may not live close by to the person receiving care. So, telehealth can come in handy here. For example, if the caregiver needs to talk to the patients doctor, then they can do that through an online health portal or website. This is much faster and easier than waiting for and traveling to an in-person doctors appointment.
You should also know the difference between telehealth and telemedicine. These are two different health services that are offered online. However, telemedicine refers only to online doctor visits. Telehealth includes more than that, like educational services, classes about nutrition, etc.
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