The use of telehealth visits to see patients not only reduced stress for nursing home residents, but also increased their access to convenient care, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Missouri. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced nursing homes to widely adopt the use of telehealth in an effort to reduce stress on the healthcare system, keep residents safe and avoid unnecessary transfers to already-overwhelmed hospitals. In an effort to understand the benefits and challenges of widespread telehealth adoption within long-term care, Kimberly Powell, PhD, RN, CNE, an assistant professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, interviewed nursing home clinicians and administrators from a sample of 700 nursing homes across the country.

Powell found that, in addition to reducing stress on residents and improving access to care, the adoption of telehealth during the pandemic was quicker and smoother for nursing homes that already had experience using it before.

Still, there are other impacts to consider, Powell noted. While telehealth offers unprecedented convenience, it can also remove much-needed socialization opportunities for older adults, and even create confusion for nursing home residents with cognitive difficulties.

“While telehealth can be very convenient and beneficial, it should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution, and this study helped us see various nuances involved,” she said.

Full findings were published in Applied Clinical Informatics