Editor’s Note: The 2020 winners of the McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards are being announced daily through Oct. 6. Skilled Care track winners are being announced here by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Senior Living track winners are being announced on the website of sister publication McKnight’s Senior Living.

A small chain of nursing homes operating throughout West Virginia, AMFM,  previously had considered incorporating virtual medicine into its operations but found the options unsatisfactory.

That is, until the coronavirus pushed administrators to look again.

The company’s selection and use of the Eko CORE digital stethoscope and Eko Telehealth services has won it a Gold Award in the Quality category in the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards.

AMFM officials said they settled on Eko because the platform includes a stethoscope that reliably transmits sounds from the heart, lung or bowels to an iPad, storing data in an electronic health records system that can be read by an internal team of nurse practitioners of rounding physicians.

“It became the replacement for any type of medical appointment that would have required an external medical professional, from a check-up to a consultation for symptoms that could have been related to COVID-19,” said system administrator Jaren Painter. “That was  especially important overnight because it prevented patients from having to go to the ER when no [on-site] doctor was available.” 

AMFM drop-shipped completed kits to its 18 locations, almost all of them in extremely remote locations. Training was then provided by Painter and his team, with support from Eko. Implementation reduced referral costs associated with routine visits. It also allowed nurse practitioners to work from home instead of billing the company for travel between those distant locations, and it reduced IT support by 20% by limiting the need for visiting clinical staff to use their own systems within AMFM buildings.

“This solution has literally paid for itself,” Painter said. “Once COVID is over, we’re definitely keeping it, especially for the night-time calls.”

Eko is also running the chain’s video-conferencing platform now, and the services were expanded to a 19th location added this summer. Overall, AMFM has made 2,000 virtual visits on behalf of its patients since launching its telehealth program.

Other Quality award winners in the Skilled Care track:

  • Silver: Ebenezer Ridges Care Center, which deploys iPad carts and assigned them to patients as the center converted its post-acute rehabilitation unit into a COVID-19 support site for the state of Minnesota. Staff members use the iPads to deliver treatment plans; specialists such as dietitians and psychologists use them to serve patients remotely; and patients use them to stay connected with family and friends.
  • Bronze: Mission Point of Belding in Michigan. The facility’s recreation director spearheaded an effort to set up Zoom conferencing to provide religious services, live music and even pet therapy visits. At the same time, a converter allowed her to repurpose a “dead” TV channel and begin livestreaming activities, which led to a 40% increase in leisure program participation. 

Competition entries were submitted May through July this year and judged by an independent panel of industry experts, including skilled care and senior living specialists.

Stanley Healthcare is the Platinum sponsor of the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards. MatrixCare is the Gold sponsor for the Senior Living track.