The prefix tele- means “performed or operating through electronic transmissions.” It stems from the Greek word tēle, which means “far off’. When a nursing home resident is experiencing a health emergency, the last thing you want a physician to be is “far off.” Therein lies the vital role that telemedicine plays in nursing homes nationwide. Wireless technology allows doctors to extend their services to care partners regardless of physical location. From diagnosis to prescriptions, nursing homes are assured that they can receive the same level of care without highly disruptive hospitalizations.
In most nursing homes, the after-hour staff tends to be kept to a minimum, at least when it comes to doctors. It is just too expensive to have one on call 24/7. The same tends to be true on weekends. Unfortunately, calamity does not keep to a schedule. So very often, it is at these times that on-site physicians are least likely to be around. Via telemedicine and the most up-to-date video capabilities, it is as if the doctor is examining with his own eyes, if not better. With immediate access to vital signs, an unexpected spike in blood pressure could be of concern or it could be nothing but the important thing is that the nursing home staff does not have to go searching “far off” for the professional opinion.
PAH stands for Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations. Before the arrival of telemedicine, a PAH represented significant cost to elder care facilities. Moving residents from the controlled atmosphere of the nursing home to the petri dish that is a hospital emergency room did not always help chances of the poor elder returning in worse condition than he or she left. Through it all, the emotional and psychological toll not only affects the senior but family members as well. The rapidly spreading use of telemedicine in elder care has significantly reduced the number of PAH’s in modern elder care facilities nationwide.
There is no need to worry about anyone other than our precious elders but you won’t find anyone in the healthcare system complaining the hundreds of thousands of dollars alone, saved by telemedicine’s drastic reduction of PAH’s. Today, they are more than happy to interface not only with nursing home staff but with family members as well, via two-way video made possible by telemedicine. Those same family members can rest assured that on-site physicians are by no means being replaced. If anything, telemedicine is the most advanced form of back-up anyone could ask for.