By Alissa Meade, President and CEO of Curavi Health
You could assume most people think of telemedicine as a glorified FaceTime call or a quick video chat with your physician, but in reality, it is much more. Having a physician at your fingertips changes the quality of care you receive. Curavi Health specializes in telemedicine solutions for the nursing home during after hours, when physician coverage is limited.
In the Post-Acute Long-Term Care field, telemedicine’s primary aim has always been avoiding hospitalizations. However, at Curavi Health, we have additionally found a way to utilize telemedicine outside of treating acute changes of condition. What about patients who need ongoing care, pain management, or specialty consults on a regular basis? Telemedicine is an attractive solution to solve these issues, especially in rural areas where accessibility is a major barrier.
Providing a vehicle for physicians to practice remotely allows facilities to be more flexible to meet the needs of the residents. For example, geriatric psychiatry providers are in great demand given the ever-increasing number of residents with behavioral diagnoses and the growing regulatory burden of caring for these fragile patients. However, their availability in rural areas is severely limited. In our experience, many nursing homes are often not receiving the quality or the quantity of geri-psychiatry services that their residents need. In order to address this issue, Curavi has begun delivering geriatric psychiatry services via telemedicine. The consults are scheduled at a convenient time for the facility on an on-going basis to help ensure continuity of care. In our initial pilot facility, Curavi delivered almost 50 consults by a board-certified geriatric psychiatrist in the initial six months, resulting in better care and consistent, on-going monitoring of the residents’ medication regimes. We talked to the Social Services Manager at our pilot facility and she said, “because we are a rural facility, having access to a geriatric psychiatrist is extremely valuable, not only to our staff but also to our patients.” A multi-disciplinary approach was taken with the social worker, floor nurse, and psychiatrist all participating in the consultation to further improve communication and continuity.
Providing specialty services through telemedicine is not limited to only rural facilities. Suburban and urban facilities can use telemedicine services to overcome common barriers to access even though it may be more costly due to CMS regulations on telemedicine reimbursement. In a survey conducted at the AMDA, Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine Annual Conference, respondents said they “strongly agree that specialty telemedicine may fill an existing service gap” and “telemedicine may improve timeliness and access to appropriate resident care.” Additionally, physicians responded they would refer their patients to a variety of telemedicine consults for specialty care such as dermatology, psychiatry, infectious diseases and neurology. So, if your facility is using telemedicine only for changes of condition, consider the many different ways to utilize your telemedicine service.
Alissa Meade is President & CEO of Curavi Health, a company focused on delivering innovative solutions to enhance the quality of care for residents in skilled nursing facilities and in the broader post-acute care environment.