Lee Horner, Synzi CEO

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the senior living industry will need to add 1.2 million employees by 2025 in order to provide adequate care for the growing aging population. Unfortunately, even in 2018, many long-term care facilities do not have enough providers or specialists onsite and/or on call after hours.

In these situations, any resident needing immediate medical care (outside of a nurse’s scope) is transported to a hospital. This can often negatively impact the individual’s health and result in unnecessary costs and penalties to facilities, hospitals, and health plans.

However, the use of virtual care technology can help address this forecasted workforce gap by enabling offsite providers to deliver critical care in a more convenient manner to residents. This technology also can benefit providers by improving patient engagement, access to care and outcomes.

On an operational level, virtual care platforms can improve workflow efficiencies while avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and excess costs.

Enhancing access to care 24/7

Providing immediate access to compassionate care is one of the ways that virtual care platforms can benefit long-term care providers.

In some situations, a resident’s medical issue may not be as critical as initially believed. Instead of arranging for transportation to the emergency department, a LTC staff member can quickly coordinate a virtual consult with an offsite provider who can assess the situation, provide medical expertise, and stabilize the resident via video. During the virtual consult, the offsite provider can determine if the severity of the resident’s condition warrants incorporating another specialist into the video call or if a transfer is needed to a nearby hospital.

With technology, the broader LTC medical team is able to intervene earlier without needing to leave a clinical setting, or one’s home. Residents can remain comfortably at home in their facility while receiving timely care on demand. Staff can efficiently coordinate immediate care or elevated care, depending on the resident’s evolving medical condition and the offsite LTC provider’s recommendation.

The resident, LTC staff and surrounding medical community all benefit from a reduction in transfers to hospitals and minimized readmissions, especially within the critical 30 days post-hospital discharge.

In addition, offering residents the ability to participate in virtual visits with their “regular” offsite providers can help to improve the quality of life for residents by affording them more time to spend on their preferred activities. Virtual care solutions also decrease the amount of time that residents spend traveling to and from clinics, as well as waiting for the follow-up appointment to commence.

With frequent and convenient video calls, residents can receive up-to-date and personalized education and support on a regular basis. These quick virtual visits can help identify emerging complications before a transfer to the ED is required.

Streamlining provider collaborations

Since many facility residents may be supported by multiple offsite specialists, a virtual care platform enables several providers to conveniently collaborate. Approximately 92% of older adults have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two, according to the National Council of Aging. Technology can help to better facilitate the coordination of care among key stakeholders, the resident’s family and the resident.

This also results in increased convenience for the resident, as a virtual care platform means that the resident does not have to coordinate and attend multiple, separate appointments with each provider.

Emerging technology to support LTC objectives

The use of virtual care platforms in senior living facilities is not as widespread as the use of other technologies. According to a Ziegler survey of 143 CFOs who operate retirement communities and assisted living facilities, 89% of facilities use electronic health records, but only 9% provide residents with convenient access to virtual care.

Since 94% of facilities have contracts with outside physicians for patient care, administrators can use virtual care platforms to help these contracted, offsite physicians bring the care to the resident — regardless of location and timing.

Facilities can deliver high-quality care by leveraging virtual care platforms in order to enhance care delivery. These facilities can augment their core onsite staff by using a virtual care platform to provide residents access to additional (and specialized) medical providers around the clock.

Providing timely access to convenient, compassionate and quality care can help alleviate the challenges and costs associated with transporting residents to traditional medical care sites. Virtual care platforms also can improve resident quality of life and satisfaction by preventing fragile residents from leaving the comfort and familiarity of their LTC setting in order to participate in offsite medical appointments.

Lee Horner is responsible for corporate strategy and development at Synzi, with an emphasis on revenue growth, product direction and customer satisfaction. Prior to launching Synzi, he was the president of Stratus Video Telehealth and successfully launched several innovative telehealth solutions into the marketplace. His management experience also includes serving as president of CareCloud software, a leader in the EHR marketplace, and senior vice president of Sage Healthcare. Learn more at www.synzi.com.