Brian Wallace

Over the last two decades, nursing homes have faced a major shift in staffing that has altered the care being provided. While nursing positions were primarily staffed by RN’s, they have now been largely replaced by LPN’s, and while that may not seem like a significant difference, there are a few elements that do change the scenario. 

The perfect storm

RNs usually have more autonomy, while LPNs primarily handle basic nursing care. RNs are generally expected to do more critical thinking on the job and are found more often in the hospital and subacute setting. While LPNs and RNs differ in their scope of practice, their daily duties often overlap. Moreover, the training programs for many LPN programs continue to get shorter, so while the staff may be certified, their abilities may not have been developed as well by the time they are hired for a job. 

Not only are there fewer nurses to take care of the residents, those who are there may not have the same clinical capabilities and experience to handle the complexities of the job. This results in a much sicker population being cared for by fewer and arguably less skilled staff which continues to cycle to more illness.

Rural facilities often face even more of these challenges than those in large cities. They tend to not have the funds or the ability to employ RNs or Advanced Practitioners to care for their residents. In addition to this, they are often challenged with greater geographical distance to hospitals or specialists. Many health issues are able to be treated on-site with RNs or Advanced Practitioners but without this option to employ them, residents are often forced to be hospitalized and receive care elsewhere.

How telemedicine saves lives

Providers have far fewer resources than they need. One solution is to provide them with technology that will help them manage this and provide extra aid to the current staff. Having a clinical overlay with machine learning technology could increase the care that the residents are receiving significantly. 

Machine learning can help connect the clinical dots when residents get sick over different shifts so that they don’t go days without receiving the help that would prevent them from getting sicker and needing to receive help elsewhere. On-site nursing staff working with a telemedicine practitioner are able to treat 83% of health issues and this alone can reduce hospitalizations to 17% of acute encounters. 

The use of telemedicine and telehealth allows for vitals management programs and the ability for it to analyze information. Doing this can help to point out issues and allow staff to contact specialists or senior clinical staff sooner, before things get worse for the resident. 

Technology like this can be used alongside staff to give them extra knowledge and help to better care for their residents. Telemedicine is not a service; it is a delivery method that doesn’t replace humans but gives them the tools to help them before issues become too significant and out of their control.

Brian Wallace is the founder and president of NowSourcing, an industry-leading content marketing agency that makes the world’s ideas simple, visual and influential. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019-present.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.