Telemedicine too complicated for LTC? Don't tell this guy

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Isn't it funny how something can't be done until someone comes along and does it?

Consider the elusive challenge of using telemedicine to improve care between post-acute and acute care settings. Many might argue that it's just too complicated and difficult for long-term care providers to get involved. But don't tell that to Lou Grimmel, the CEO at Lorien Health System in Maryland.

Lorien's Bel Air community recently partnered with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, to create an innovative telemedicine service that improves care, cuts costs and trims hospital readmissions. In the fall, they received a $30,000 telehealth grant

The system's pilot program lets physicians at the medical center's emergency department remotely assess residents at Lorien Bel Air. This is possible because the skilled care facility has a new examination room that contains video cameras, microphones and other specialized equipment. The set-up lets doctors analyze a resident's status and any change of condition and quickly determine a course of treatment — including whether a transfer to the medical center's emergency room is actually necessary.

Grimmel estimates that in cases where residents are experiencing flu-like symptoms, this new approach can reduce caregiving times by six hours, while also possibly eliminating an ambulance ride.

So far, both sides are encouraged by this new arrangement.

“We are excited about the possibilities of using this technology to get a patient assessed earlier and maybe to avoid an unnecessary trip to our emergency department,” said Lyle E. Sheldon, CEO of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health. He said the pilot also lets his medical center build closer relationships with surrounding post-acute providers.

Grimmel added that the model is scalable, and that he plans to expand its use to his other facilities in the Baltimore area.

At a time when many operators are considering alternative careers, a man who has spent 37 years in long-term care sees a future filled with opportunity and promise.

“There has never been a better time to be in this field,” he noted. “Telemedicine is going to be big.”

Guess he didn't get the doom-and-gloom talking points.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.