Even as telehealth takes the world by storm as a ‘new new thing’ in healthcare, there are reasons for people in the residential and senior care industry to take a step back and assess. advantages versus disadvantages as they adjust to life after the pandemic. This is not, after all, a risk free proposition.
Virtual care has a role to play in resolving some worrying and converging trends. One is the overwhelming number of baby boomers reaching age 65: 10,000 per day until 2030. They are living longer and suffering from multiple chronic health conditions that require relocation to senior communities and institutions. skilled nursing care. The other side of the equation? The growing shortage of health care providers during this period: some 121,300 doctors, not to mention a lack of paid and unpaid nurses and caregivers.
Virtual health services are a viable option to help narrow the growing gap between the number of older people and the availability of the health services they will need. But senior housing providers must balance the risks and rewards to make it happen. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Quality of care and related issues
Residents of retirement homes are generally fragile. Transporting them to hospital is dangerous when arthritis or osteoporosis can lead to fractures, no matter how carefully they are lifted. This makes telehealth advantageous in that it helps bypass the risks of travel for medical care, especially in rural areas where hospitals are scarce.
However, there are drawbacks to be aware of. For starters, virtual diagnoses of residents with dementia can be more difficult than in-person diagnoses. And precautions are necessary. Consent agreements for medical care of a resident should be rechecked. These generally extend to care provided in the elderly community. But it makes sense to make sure that the agreement does not contain terms that could prevent telehealth services.
And providers should also be aware of public and private reimbursement considerations as they scale up their telehealth strategies.
The three-day qualifying hospital stay, for example, is a benefit for the nursing home in terms of reimbursement, as it triggers a high Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement rate for, for example, respiratory failure. It can be argued that with the 1135 waiver for COVID, however, this is not a loss, as facilities can “on-site jurisdiction.” Yet, especially with the push towards bulk payments, elderly care facilities will focus on reducing readmissions. Telehealth can be an effective tool for this, and there are advantages to caring for the resident in a less expensive nursing home setting compared to a hospital. With COVID waivers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, establishments that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments do not lose the highest reimbursement because the use of telehealth allows them to “skill in place.”
Another case for cybersecurity precautions
With or without the provision of virtual health services to their residents, seniors’ residence service providers need to be very careful with their cyber practices. Many consider that the long-term care sector as a whole is less prepared to manage cyber risks than other segments of health; their files are valuable and too easy to hack.
The cybersecurity implications of telehealth are more important for healthcare providers, as the platforms provide another opening for criminals. But managers of residences and senior care are already well aware of the security risks of their residents’ electronic medical records. But their WiFi gateways become even more vulnerable because they host virtual care.
Potential issues with medical directors and impacts on income
One concern that could pose a delicate problem for the elderly and caregivers is the extent to which the use of telemedicine eliminates medical directors (unless they also provide telemedicine services, that is, -say). Medical directors typically make several monthly visits to facilities and are paid to diagnose conditions in residents. Take away their income, and there might be a problem. This is something to think about given the role of the medical director in driving the acceptable acuity of some facilities – especially since the higher the level of need, the greater the growth in a facility’s revenue. important.
The pandemic has put virtual health in the spotlight for more than a year. It has been a boon to seniors and caregivers to increase the care options for residents during this time. The extent of their embrace in the future takes into account all the implications.