An effective tool to reduce readmissions

Marty Butler
Marty Butler

If your facility isn't adapting to technological advances, odds are your competition is, and they'll outperform you in no time. Working for a full service risk management firm, I feel it's important to help educate operators on advancements in the industry, specifically as it relates to risk management. Telemedicine is a new, powerful tool that's proving value to skilled nursing facilities and has a direct impact on insurance spend, risk management and readmission rates. The American Telemedicine Association describes Telemedicine as such:

Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient's clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.  

In certain rural counties, telemedicine is reimbursed by Medicare per patient encounter. As a risk management tool, I see telemedicine as a no brainer. In a recent conversation with a local telemedicine company, it was made clear as to how telemedicine can be utilized as a risk management tool. Jake Garfinkel, CEO of TeleMedico, states, “Telemedicine capabilities don't just affect the patient; it also affects the facility's employees. It's about how we're uniting medicine, IT and communities.”

It's evident that the workers' compensation exposures and claim trends in the SNF world are constant and aggressive. By utilizing telemedicine as a tool to help treat employees with work-related injuries as opposed to sending that employee to an urgent care clinic, it can immediately reduce workers' compensation spend. 

We also see telemedicine as a powerful tool for professional liability exposures. Telemedicine can help operators limit their exposure as it relates to patient claims against a facility. With telemedicine access, doctors can be instantly connected to offer immediate and decisive care that'll improve patients' experience, health and wellness, along with census.

Minimizing risk equals minimizing premium spend. The ROI as it relates to insurance spend is simple. What do claims frequency, severity and reserves look like today and what do they look like after the integration of telemedicine? Culturally, it's important that the organization is helping the nursing staff incorporate this technology. Telemedicine is not looking to give more work to the nursing staff, rather be a tool that can be easily accessed and utilized to help keep the patients in contact with their healthcare providers, reduce 30 day readmissions and offer quality healthcare services. 

It seems that even in urban settings where Medicare reimbursement isn't yet available, operators are utilizing this tool to help better market their facilities and fill beds. If the nursing home down the street isn't offering telemedicine and your facility is, you'll have a great competitive advantage on multiple fronts.

Telemedicine is a universal tool that's in the infancy stages but addresses multiple key revenue sources for SNFs. This is a tool here to stay; how will you use it?

Marty Butler is the senior vice president and practice leader at Assurance.

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