October 29, 2021

Telemedicine is a Game Changer for Night Shift SNF Nurses

Telemedicine is a Game Changer for After-Hours SNF CareWhen a SNF patient experiences a change in condition on nights or weekends, the most common care plan involves waking up an on-call doctor with a phone call or immediately calling an ambulance, resulting in an unnecessary trip to the hospital and potentially unnecessary hospital readmission.

Today, more and more skilled nursing facilities are embracing a game-changing strategy in their after-hours care by adding on-shift tele-hospitalist coverage to their clinical program on nights, weekends, and holidays.  Telemedicine brings expert physician support to nursing teams, allowing physicians to interact with patients through remote care tools and safely treat many common conditions in place.

Chantal Walsh, MD, and CMD with Sound Physicians recalls the days in SNFs before virtual care options. A nurse who wanted to reach a physician offsite had to use the phone and relay information verbally only. “Now we can go see the patient and work with the nurses to get the patient stabilized and get the treatment started,” says Walsh, who today serves as the remote attending physician for partner SNFs during off-peak hours. “If not, my communication with the SNF would just be telephone, and I wouldn’t have that impact that I can have with the telemedicine program.”

The collaborative “treatment team” element of telemedicine that Walsh describes goes beyond simply seeing a doctor through the screen. These physicians can also interact directly with patients through remote medical tools that allow them to check vitals and make diagnoses. “The physician has an accurate heart rate and can actually listen, which is more effective than just taking a nurse’s word over the phone,” says Heather Flavin, DON of Trinity Regional Rehab Center in Trinity, Florida. “The physician can assess for themselves by using that feature.”

This direct medical interaction increases alignment in the care process between the DON, night-shift nurses, and physicians, which in turn increases the confidence that SNF nurses have in calling the physician. “They’re calling now with the expectation that we’re going to be able to do something for that patient in the facility as opposed to just needing an order to send them out to a doctor in the ER,” Walsh says.

Download the complete White Paper, published initially by Skilled Nursing News, here.