Given the risk of infection and transmission, skilled nursing facilities have enacted restricted visitor policies during the pandemic. As a result, family caregivers and external clinicians such as therapists, wound care nurses or behavioral health specialists have been prohibited from visiting patients.
To maintain the safety of a facility’s patients and staff, virtual visits are essential to help visiting clinicians, therapists, hospice and family members continue “being present” with the patient as much as possible.
Providing higher level care
If a patient needs a care intervention, telehealth can help onsite or on-call staff facilitate a virtual consult. The facility’s medical director or the hospitalist would be able to provide virtual care on-demand and potentially mitigate the need for an unnecessary and disruptive, stressful, time-consuming and costly transfer to the hospital. Virtual care enables a facility to care for more of its patients onsite – especially after-hours and on weekends – and treat patients in place.
During the pandemic, telehealth also allows an offsite provider the ability to deliver timely care while reducing the risk of exposure. This also helps nursing staff work at the top of their licenses with greater collaboration with medical providers. And, the patients’ nearby and faraway family caregivers can be kept in the communication loop – whether via video, text or email – and continue to advocate on behalf of their loved one.
Remote patient monitoring also enables a SNF to better manage patients. By sharing patient data with the patient’s referral partner, the broader care team can remain informed about any changes in a patient’s vital signs and quickly determine if the plan of care needs to be changed.
Strengthening relationships with referral partners
Building or strengthening relationships with referral partners may be key to facilities’ long-term survival – especially during a time when patients are worried about COVID-19 and prefer to age and heal at home. As they struggle to ease the bed burden facing hospitals, SNF administrators should also focus on nurturing their network and making sure their unique value proposition can best support referral partners. Evidence showing how a SNF reduces avoidable and costly readmissions while improving clinical outcomes can help fortify these relationships.
A telehealth and virtual care platform can positively impact clinical outcomes while increasing patient census and retention. These results attract the interest of referral partners who actively seek facilities which can minimize the “revolving door” of rehospitalizations, improve the transition of care and maximize patient impact.
AnnaMaria Turano is vice president of marketing for Synzi.