A guide out this month gives skilled nursing leaders more direction on the use of telemedicine to better treat residents.

Experts with the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and several other institutions, compiled the guidance using research, experience and expertise from a long-term care-focused telemedicine workgroup. They emphasize that telemedicine should be integrated into residents’ primary care, and delivered by clinicians with competency in skilled care, according to the analysis, which was published in February’s Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Dr. Suzanne Gillespie
Suzanne Gillespie, M.D.

“There’s been a lot of evolution in technology and how telemedicine can be used in different settings across the healthcare continuum, and the post-acute and long-term care professional world has worked to try and understand how this can be used most effectively in nursing homes,” said Suzanne Gillespie, M.D., an associate professor of geriatrics at the University of Rochester. “What we found was that people were really looking for some guidance in how to use this technology to advance access and quality of care nursing facilities.”

The study keys in specifically on the use of telemedicine for the evaluation and management of resident changes in a SNF. Experts compiled these recommendations through both telephonic and face-to face meetings over the course of two years. It notes that developing and sustaining telemedicine programs in SNFs depends heavily on payment mechanisms for such services. It also urges providers to carefully define quality measures for successful implementation of this technology.

Done properly, they write, telemedicine can contribute to the delivery of timely, high-quality care in SNFs that reduces unnecessary hospitalizations. Gillespie, who also chairs AMDA’s telemedicine workgroup, emphasized that telemedicine is to supplement residents’ regular care, not replace it.

“Right now, I think it’s underutilized and there’s a great opportunity for this tool to be expanded,” she told McKnight’s. “In order to do that, we’re going to need to support the development of some competencies in how to use these technologies at our facilities. We’re still in a time where there is a great deal of disparity in how resourced sites are to provide care using these tools.”