Brian Wallace

The nursing home economy is extremely vulnerable, accounting for a staggering rate of America’s COVID-19 deaths. With the pandemic clogging the accessibility of medical care, many are left to suffer.

As an influencer of many industries, I’ve caught sight of two solutions that can revolutionize the future of healthcare accessibility: telehealth and telemedicine. The aforementioned practices benefit physicians and patients.

With the United States’ most at-risk demographic under the confinement of their long-term facilities, seniors are going without medical assessment. It’s important providers and caregivers to work together in extending medical treatment to senior residents without the need for them to travel.

On top of cosigning various industries, I specialize in visual approaches for conveying complex information. In over a decade of experience across industries, I have found that infographics help laymen process new intelligence in an optically appeasing manner. Our brains are programmed to retain imagery in greater length and quality than text, so infographics are often the best approach in attracting one’s attention to new data.

We were commissioned by Athene Telehealth to get to the bottom of America’s use of telemedicine and telehealth. With them, we found there are many ways post-acute facilities can help their residents see their providers without leaving the building.

The different benefits of telehealth and telemedicine

Although the techy healthcare applications are similar in name, they are used for two different purposes. The data surrounding telehealth and telemedicine is abundant, and soaking it all in can be laborious. When we began dissecting the new health services, we found it crucial to first differentiate the two.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), telehealth is the use of telecommunication and electronic information to offer remote healthcare. This can be demonstrated in a broad range of remote healthcare services such as monitoring a patient’s clinical data, holding administrative meetings, and providing patient training and education.

Similarly, yet with a purpose of another intent, telemedicine provides actual medical services through virtual visits and use of diagnostic tools. The digital practice can:

  • save patients from taking unnecessary visits to the ER,
  • decrease the patient’s rate of avoidable hospital readmissions,
  • improve a physician’s availability by giving them 24/7 coverage, and
  • promote early treatment intervention which can enhance a patient’s quality of life.

While telehealth and telemedicine are newly practiced, they have already proven to be plenty valuable. As of April 24, 2020, nearly 10,000 of America’s coronavirus deaths were connected to nursing home residents or caregivers, and the numbers continue to hike. We wanted to understand why more providers weren’t on board with remote healthcare.

In March 2020, we were shocked to find the Cleveland Clinic logged over 60,000 telemedicine visits, having increased their traffic by 18x their monthly average. Still, we found that only 2 in 10 doctors plan to implement virtual appointments and just 1 in 10 hospitals have the tech they need for large-scale implementation. To provide residents with the best quality of life, it’s crucial for caregivers to urge their patients’ primary health providers to offer remote services.

Telemedicine: A true necessity

With the sudden surge for the need to remotely monitor and treat patients due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, accompanied by strong recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and every state Department of Health, telemedicine services have been catapulted to become a true necessity (and no longer a luxury), especially in long-term care (LTC), subacute and rehabilitation facilities.

Telemedicine providers have also proven to be very essential front line responders, even if not in the same location as a confirmed COVID-19 patient. Every state’s most vulnerable population is the elderly, who resident in nursing homes across the country.

As the coronavirus cases begin to trend downward in communities, LTC facilities have made headlines as a result of their increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. This anomaly is due to the fact that nursing homes have been battling to keep the virus out of their facilities since the day the first cases were identified in the Northwest.

Unfortunately and despite each nursing home’s vigilant and consistent efforts to evade the invisible enemy and protect their beloved residents, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable invasion in LTC settings took place.

Fast forward to the current situation, the use of telemedicine in these areas could not be more beneficial in combating the pandemic. Residents no longer have to wait just to see their doctors (and are always exposed to ill hospital patients) face to face.

Instead, telemedicine offers a virtual visit conducted via video conferencing, utilizing a digital stethoscope and other diagnostic devices to perform a thorough assessment remotely and the safest way as possible. Further, this new standard of medical care allows any resident experiencing a decline in clinical status to be evaluated in the comfort of their own rooms while the nurse initiates the interventions an emergency room will likely perform; hence saving the resident a trip to the hospital where they may exponentially increase their chances in acquiring the deadly virus.

Lastly, families are ecstatic to learn that telemedicine is finally available in the nursing facility and provides them with the constant reassurance of having the presence of a physician instantaneously for their loved one should the need arise. So as long as patients or residents can benefit from socially distant physician encounters, Athene Telehealth, LLC will be here to provide each person with high-quality assessments, positive outcomes, and effective Telemedicine services.

Brian Wallace is the founder and president of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY, and Cincinnati, OH, which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.