Can Telehealth Nursing Really Reduce Senior Living Operating Expenses?

There’s no doubt about it; telehealth saves money. The Telehealth Medicine Association recently proved it in a round-up study of more than 2,000 telehealth studies, which resoundingly showed that telehealth is cost-effective.

“These studies are consistent in finding that telemedicine saves the patients, providers and payers money when compared with traditional approaches to providing care,” researchers of the study wrote.

Senior living makes good use of telehealth

But how does this apply to senior living According to LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) study, senior living communities are saving money and improving care by using telehealth to:

  • Measure key patient indicators like weight or blood pressure;
  • Promote efficient, remote collaboration among staff, specialists and healthcare providers;
  • Allow nurses or aides to gather background information on the patient or resident;
  • Decrease emergency room visits and surgery by providing surgeons and other providers the ability to evaluate remotely whether a procedure is required;
  • Provide easier access to more specialty care—something many seniors need.

Download our guide to discover the bottom-line cost savings of implementing telehealth in your organization.

Another study by the Alliance for Connected Care shows that telehealth drastically saves Medicare money. The study supports encouraging health insurance companies and federal health insurers like Medicare and Medicaid to increase reimbursements for this service. “It’s time to change the statute and give seniors access to telehealth services,” said Krista Drobac, executive director of the Alliance for Connected Care.

Telehealth reduces hospitalizations

But most importantly, telehealth nursing can reduce hospitalizations, which not only improves the quality of life for seniors, but maintains the bottom line for senior living communities. A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that telehealth can save billions in prevented hospitalizations. Though this money is often saved through reimbursement to Medicare, new payment models, such as accountable care organizations, are passing some of that savings on to senior living communities. Key findings of the study include:

  • After the introduction of the telemedicine service, hospitalization rates declined;
  • There was an even more significant decline in hospitalization rates at facilities that were deemed “more engaged” with the telemedicine service;
  • Based on the reduced hospitalization rates of the more-engaged facilities, Medicare could expect an average of about $151,000 in savings per nursing home per year. The annual cost of the telemedicine service was $30,000 per nursing home, suggesting that there could be $120,000 in net savings per year.

 

While after-hours telemedicine coverage can generate savings for Medicare, senior living homes must use it to its full potential for these savings to be realized, the study’s authors say. To best accomplish this, telemedicine providers and nursing home leaders need to get the buy-in of administrators, frontline staff, and physicians.

Nurses are the key

Nurses are the frontline of care. They are the eyes and ears for physicians. Hour for hour, they spend more time with patients than physicians do. They also form the needed human bonds that drastically increase the quality of life for seniors. The rising cost of healthcare and multiple budget constraints are forcing some tough choices on senior living executives. Telehealth nursing is one option for providing more care with fewer full-time staff.

Use of telehealth in a senior living home can increase staff’s efficiency, helping to save money. Telehealth can also keep residents happier, healthier and prevent hospitalizations, which increases resident retention–an important aspect of a healthy bottom line for senior living communities.

How have you used telehealth to reduce operating costs?

Leave a comment