The rapid deployment of telehealth has benefited nursing homes, but has also had its drawbacks


As the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive increase in telehealth use across the country, hard-hit nursing homes have also turned to the tool to try to protect patients.

A University of Missouri study released last week found that the switch to virtual care reduced stress for residents and helped improve access to services. At the same time, however, the use of telemedicine had its drawbacks, especially from a social point of view.

“For people with cognitive impairments, they might not understand on a telehealth call why or how their doctor is talking to them through a computer screen,” said Kimberly Powell, assistant professor at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and lead author of the study. , in a report.

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


For the study, published recently in the Journal of Applied Clinical Informatics, Powell and fellow researcher Gregory Alexander interviewed 21 administrators and clinicians from 16 facilities across the country.

The goal, they said, was to examine the consequences of the rapid deployment of telehealth in nursing homes. Respondents cited several positive effects of using telemedicine, including:

  • The advantages of avoiding travel for the resident of the retirement home.
  • Organizational resources saved.
  • Better access to healthcare.
  • Improved communication.

“Transporting a resident to the hospital can be a very traumatic and stressful experience,” said Powell.

“Whether it’s a fall in the middle of the night or a sudden change in vital signs, if a nurse can quickly make a Zoom call with a resident and do an assessment, maybe a plan intervention can be developed that allows the resident to be treated in the retirement home, which saves time, money and unnecessary transfer to the hospital, ”she continued.

At the same time, representatives of the facilities pointed out the disadvantages of using the technology:

  • Preference for face-to-face meetings.
  • Social isolation is worsening.
  • Difficulty for residents with cognitive impairment.
  • Technology workflow and usability challenges.
  • Increased load on personnel or infrastructure.

“For some nursing home residents, going to a doctor for a consultation or a follow-up appointment can be a fun social event, as it may be their only chance each month to get some fresh air and to go out. the community. So taking this opportunity can be difficult for some, ”explained Powell.

Respondents from schools in rural areas were also more likely to perceive lack of training, poor video and sound quality, and connectivity issues as traps.

“In the future, there is also a need to improve data integration, so that when clinicians are on a Zoom call with nursing home residents, they can quickly and easily access medical records such as blood tests or lab results, ”Powell said.


In March 2020, federal lawmakers highlighted the particular benefits telehealth could have for nursing homes at the onset of the pandemic.

But even before the crisis, several skilled nursing facilities were using virtual care technology to keep patients in place, reduce hospital admissions, and improve care.

“The time is right; in fact, now is more than the time,” said Michael Feist, vice president of operations at the Friedwald Center. IT health news in April 2019 on the implementation of telehealth in the establishment.

“It’s something we really had to do a long time ago, but it’s good that he’s here now. The good thing about this equipment and technology is that it is very user friendly.


“As a nurse, I have always been fascinated by how information technology can be used to improve patient health outcomes,” said Powell of the University of Missouri.

“Telehealth opens up many possibilities for early intervention and allows clinicians to also take into account personal preferences and shared decision-making,” she added.

Kat Jercich is Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
E-mail: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.


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