AHCA/NCAL conference recap: Why SNF providers must branch out with telemedicine

Oct 31, 2017 / Telemedicine in the news /
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Can providing telemedicine services help incite SNF providers? Here’s how leveraging telemedicine may enable the change for the future.

With highly trained professionals such as registered nurses, physical, speech and occupational therapists, skilled nursing facilities provide a high level of medical care to long-term patients, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy. The patients at these facilities need specialty care and often times are transported from the facility to the hospital, when they could be treated in the facility. If only they had initial access to the specialist they needed, there would be a lot less time and money spent on patient transport and empty beds, as well as reductions in penalties for hospital readmission.

However, telemedicine has a big impact on effectuating change to address many of these problems.

SNFs have also seen a recent drop in patient length of stay over the last year - around 27 days on average - and this declining census could be a difficult challenge for SNF providers to overcome if they don't start branching out, according to what American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson shared at the recent 68th Annual AHCA/NCAL Conference in Las Vegas.

So, can providing additional services via telemedicine help SNF providers deliver better patient care by branching out to offer more services? Absolutely! Here's how telemedicine may enable the change for the future:

Branching out

Traditionally, SNFs have relied on long-term care and rehab patients to fill beds and be the main drive that keeps such facilities open. With the recent decline in length of stay, however, SNFs need to consider providing additional services that will encourage existing patients to stay longer and help new patients to explore the idea of staying in an SNF.

"If your business strategy is, 'I'm just going to be a SNF with 120 beds and all I'm going to do is take care of long-term care patients and 20 or 30 or 40 rehab patients,' that model's not going to work great in the future," Parkinson cautioned. "You need to have other services to make it work."

According to Parkinson, behavioral health is one area into which SNF providers can channel their focus. Targeting younger individuals with mental illness opens many doors for care. For instance, some providers have started caring for children and teens dealing with multiple sclerosis or brain injuries. Another target audience could be aging prisoners who have yet to receive specialized care.  Having access to specialists via telemedicine offers providers a smart and cost effective way to deliver specialty care within their facilities.

Reducing unnecessary transports

By leveraging telemedicine, health care professionals provide more services and eliminate costs spent on unnecessary transports that essentially turn into readmission of the patients. According to Kaiser Health News, nearly 2,573 hospitals will face readmission penalties for 2017 alone. As of 2018, the Protecting Access to Medicare Act will penalize skilled nursing facilities for unnecessary 30-day readmissions. While physicians certainly can't prevent every readmission, they can reconsider how they're delivering initial care and leverage telemedicine practices to better assist patients during the first visit.

As health care continues to change, new technological advances are taking the industry by storm and creating new, innovative ways to provide the best quality care to patients in need. By utilizing telemedicine, SNF providers can offer additional service lines, such as telepsychiatry, teleneurology, telecardiology, and many more.  Not only will this increase the amount of patients they can assist over a period of time, but it will also enhance a provider's brand and reputation.

For more information on how SNF providers can use telemedicine solutions to follow industry trends prepare for the future, contact AMD Global Telemedicine for assistance and recommendations.

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