July 14, 2022
4 Common Barriers to Telemedicine in SNFs
Effective telemedicine integration is one of the most powerful advantages a SNF (skilled nursing facility) can invest in. While telemedicine aids nurses and increases the quality of patient care, new programs can grapple with a few key challenges. Understanding the common barriers to telemedicine can put programs ahead of the learning curve these tools create.
1. Programs lack engagement from SNFs leadership.
The cornerstone of a successful telemedicine program is an aligned team. Without complete, top-down support from SNF C-suites, regional leadership, and SNF physicians, the program will never experience complete adoption. While it can be difficult to work against the human instinct to resist change, telemedicine works best with full support behind it. When leaders are on board, frontline caregivers are more likely to use telemedicine, and residents benefit from more access to physician services.
2. Nurses do not know when to use telemedicine.
Simply implementing a telemedicine program does not ensure it will get used. Nurses must adhere to this mantra: Any time they could use the support of a physician, telemedicine is appropriate. Here are just a few scenarios where telemedicine is appropriate:
- Abnormal labs
- Changes in vitals
- Medication needs and pain management
- After-hours admissions
- Concerns and questions from residents and their families
Without physician intervention, these can all be catalysts for readmission. Utilizing telemedicine in these moments puts a physician at the bedside, so nurses can work at the top of their license and treat patients in place.
3. Challenges with training and staffing turnovers
Most nurses never learned how to use telemedicine in school, and they need specific training to use the technology and work with a remote physician. Unfortunately, staff turnover, lack of on-demand training resources, and limited technical support can make training a challenge. When crafting effective training, appoint a nurse champion for every shift. They will serve as a guide for those struggling with or new to the technology. From there, use these tactics to keep your training tight:
- Incorporate training into nurse onboarding.
- Build telemedicine into existing workflows.
- Create recorded training for use on-demand.
- Train nurse leadership in full.
- Make it easy and fun! Provide pocket cards, tech stations, and signage.
Don’t forget to celebrate successes! Reinforcing training helps systems run smoothly.
4. Technology Hurdles
Technology should make delivering care easier, not more complicated. But, when it comes to telemedicine, tech challenges are all too common. Bulky carts, outdated software, bad WiFi connections, and cumbersome login procedures can bring down a program before it gets off the ground. Before you launch a program, make sure it meets your staff’s “tech” requirements.
- Avoid bulky carts. Look for programs that use iPads, tablets, or phones instead
- Create telemedicine “stations” on each floor or ward so your nurses always know where to find a fully charged device
- If PointClickCare is your EMR, consider Virtual Health, which integrates the telemedicine encounter directly into the EMR and nurse’s workflow
Anticipating these hurdles is the first step to achieving a successful telemedicine program. When skilled nursing facilities address the common barriers, telemedicine lives up to its full potential and dramatically improves clinical and financial outcomes.
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