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6 Benefits of Telenursing

April 13, 2017  |  Category: Articles, Healthcare Administration

Nurses remain highly regarded as the foundation that permits health care organizations to function. However, the institutions that rely on these professionals face a potentially critical talent shortage. As early as 2025, the approaching talent gap will affect all healthcare institutions across the nation.

Telehealth technology may help medical institutions sidestep this nursing shortage altogether. The technology has arrived at a time when patients suffering from chronic illnesses require augmented consultations and services. This presents an opportunity for nurses with enhanced skills to ‘go virtual’ and increase their value as health care professionals. Furthermore, telenursing provides the following seven benefits for patients and nurse practitioners.

Benefit One: Remote Service Delivery

Telehealth technology allows nurse practitioners (NPs) to deliver medical services via the Internet and landline phone equipment. [1] Practitioners deliver services using various tools such as computers, remote monitoring devices, cellular devices, delivery companies and surgical robots. Telenursing blends audio, video and text-based digital information.

Practitioners have come to recognize that the quality of telehealth service parallels that of in-person office visits. Telehealth tools greatly increase efficiency for nurse practitioners who deliver service to clients in rural communities and sparsely populated areas.

The same technology allows practitioners to monitor the health conditions of patients continuously. For this, NPs employ peripheral devices that replace traditional medical devices such as stethoscopes, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs.

Benefit Two: Financial Savings

Typically, one emergency room visit costs a patient around $800. In sharp contrast, a telenursing visit can cost around $40.

Telenursing can reduce costs for both patients and practitioners. [2] For example, employers that provided employees with telehealth services collectively saved $6 million in 2016. The savings included reduced visitation expenses and productivity gains from decreased employee absences. Individually, employees saved around $750 annually, and large firms — such as Rent-A-Center, based in Plano, Texas — realized employee health care savings of nearly 1 million dollars in a single year.

Benefit Three: Improved Bed Allocation

Medicare estimates that readmissions cost care providers approximately $26 billion annually, with improper care producing $17 billion of that expense. [3] By improving follow-up care to high-risk clients — such as chronic illness sufferers and recent surgical patients — care providers have found a tool that reduces readmissions considerably.

For instance, the Connected Cardiac Care Program of Partner’s HealthCare reduced readmissions due to heart failure in half, resulting in over $10 million in savings. The organization monitored patients in a pilot telehealth program. They used questionnaires and provided health-related education every week, following up in person only with those participants who were out of range of the service during a particular period.

Benefit Four: Patient Comfort

Three in four patients already feel comfortable with telemedicine, with more warming up to the idea every day. [4] Clients especially like the idea of freely accessing invaluable specialists that might typically remain heavily scheduled with other patients.

Nurse practitioners use telehealth technology to assess client comfort levels and respond accordingly. The tool allows NPs to restore the personal touch once provided by home physician visits. Care providers also use the technology to deliver services to patients’ offices, to satellite clinics or to any location that offers convenience.

Benefit Five: Increased Health Care Employment Opportunities

Insurers look to telehealth cost savings as a way to deliver top-notch service at drastically reduced costs. [5] Consumers seek consultations to obtain information from care providers quickly and avoid the almost $100 billion in expenses generated by failure to understand care plans.

Forbes magazine forecasts that health care reform will cause telemedicine consultations to double by 2022. Analysts predict that practitioners will experience a sharp, 25 percent increase in the patient sessions they deliver each year over the next five years, eventually delivering around 27 million yearly consultations.

Benefit Six: Accessibility by Patients in Remote Areas

Almost 50 rural hospitals ceased operations between 2010 and 2016, with nearly 300 more facilities facing possible closure due to population shifts and resource misallocations. [6] As physicians forgo locating to rural areas, and as patient transportation logistics grow increasingly complex, problems with care quality and coverage shortages are escalating. However, many believe that telenursing services can go a long way in solving this dilemma. With telehealth services, rural hospitals can reduce costs, cover larger areas and eliminate most of the time it takes to deliver services. Incidentally, this same logic applies to delivering services to patients in developing nations.

Despite the amazing advancements facilitated by telenursing, nurse practitioners as health care advocates must join forces to integrate telenursing as a standard practice in an effort to meet the value-added reform mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although clients can now receive telemedicine care for as little as $50, not all providers offer telehealth that enables patients to reap the cost savings. With sufficient support and operational integration however, patients everywhere may have the ability to access telenursing services free of charge in the near future.

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