Can Telemedicine Cut Nursing Home Costs?

Can Telemedicine Cut Nursing Home CostsWhen looking at Medicare expenditures in nursing homes that result from a resident being sent to the hospital because the on-call physician is not available for a consultation, over $1 billion is spent annually in unnecessary hospitalizations.

To determine if telemedicine has the potential to reduce these hospitalizations and their related expenses, a controlled study was conducted by Health Affairs in the state of Massachusetts.

To facilitate the experiment, nursing homes were provided with telemedicine technology that allowed them to videoconference with a physician 24 hours a day, which is essential for diagnosing many conditions since it provides visual confirmation that a phone call cannot.

Eleven nursing homes participated in the study, all of which had lower quality ratings than the average nursing home. This was due to factors such as a higher ratio of residents to staff.

While some nursing homes embraced the ability to video-conference prior to sending a resident to the hospital when the on-call physician was not available, not all participated at a high level.

Nonetheless, the results were conclusive, as a significant amount of money was saved.

The average amount of Medicare savings was $151,000 annually, with an initial investment of $30,000 for the technology. On top of the technology spending, training is required for the nursing home staff. While the savings generated have the potential to be substantial, the emotional stress associated with a hospitalization is also alleviated for the residents.

It is important to remember that when a method of reducing Medicare spending is developed, experts say, it saves the American economy as a whole.

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