Once introduced to telemedicine and its overall effect on healthcare costs, the next step is to visit the environment where it thrives the most. All businesses must contend with change in order to prosper. With a business such as telemedicine, lives are on the line. Telemedicine must be where it is needed. In an age where wireless technology is in everyone’s pocket, its benefit to the healthcare industry has not been overlooked. Already in every hospital, the current trend has telemedicine spreading to every subacute and long term care facility. So what do the terms “subacute care” and “long term care” actually mean? More importantly, why has telemedicine become so indispensable to professionals in those fields?
Think of it this way. Hospitals make us think of urgency, crises that need addressing in the moment. Whether in the emergency room or the operating room, doctors perform lifesaving tasks twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. On the other hand, plenty of problems persist. They are too complex for immediate resolution. Rehabilitation is necessary. This is where subacute care enters the picture. Yet, make no mistake, the knowledge and expertise of those physicians will still be called upon, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. When a subacute care facility links up with a telemedicine provider, the mutual benefit is immediately apparent. The former is able to promise patients with acute illness or injury the most comprehensive care. Elderly patients in advanced stages of diseases such as Alzheimer’s can receive the attention of an interdisciplinary team whose members don’t have to actually be on the premises.
Did you notice the repetition of “twenty four hours a day, seven days a week?” It’s no joke. Yet, long term care is still a business, a competitive one at that. Imagine any other business operating around the clock. The staffing issues alone are enough to drive anyone to distraction. Also, like any thriving business, long term care facilities may want to expand their services. For example, a “small home” assisted living facility specializing in dementia care for the elderly may want to add a “neighborhood” that caters to individuals with physical disabilities. As long as they can continue to rely on their connection to the same medical professionals, this is feasible.
With long term care, such a wide array of issues arise on a regular basis, each one warrants its own blog post. We can skim over a few typical ones here in order to learn the nature of long term care. For one, any one health condition treated in long term care can come with its own psychological component. Top facilities that pride themselves in keeping residents at the “highest practical” level of well-being will offer staff training on such occurrences. However, when consultation with a psychiatrist is called for, telemedicine allows the onsite staff to do so via video feed.
Not only is this an example of risk management, in that it might prevent resident-on-resident abuse, but it also promises optimum results with regulatory compliance. This type of business lives and dies based on the reports of surveyors and inspectors. Failure to keep residents at that “highest practical” level of well-being is a favorite citation given to long term care facilities. In the days before telemedicine, the physical transfer of patients alone proved to be the cause of so many hits in the census department. Keeping everything in house makes it possible to run a tighter ship, hence improved regulatory compliance.
Readily available wireless technology may make medical miracles possible but only because they connect long term care staff to actual physicians. As astounding as its effect has been on our society, technology still has yet to replace the mind of a medical doctor. Telemedicine is about communication. The equipment makes connections possible. A reliable roster of specialists on the other end completes the picture.