Could Telehealth Nursing be the Answer to the Healthcare Crisis?
Telehealth nursing is not a new concept, but it has recently started to emerge as an important component of quality care. An emerging picture of healthcare includes nurses taking a more proactive approach to patient care, in person, on the telephone, the web, and even through face-to-face tablet devices. Faced with the growing needs of an aging population, the shifting ground of healthcare issues, and the financial crisis sweeping the nation, the medical community needs innovative new solutions to meet the needs of the public, and telehealth is a practical, economic solution.
Debunking the Myths
1. Telehealth nurses require less training and education because their answers are dictated by strict protocols, scripts, and guidelines.
Whether on the phone, over the computer, or in person, all nurses perform triage by gathering comprehensive patient information before dispensing advice. No script or computer program can ask the right questions and make value judgments based on the skill and intuition of an experienced nurse. Telehealth nurses are professional and come from diverse clinical practices. They are highly autonomous, but also highly accountable.
2. Telehealth offers limited opportunity for career growth.
On the contrary, telehealth is an emergent field that is wide open with new opportunities, which will only increase with demand. Telehealth nurses do not work alone in a vacuum; they interact constantly with other healthcare professionals, community health services, and patients. A smart telehealth nurse builds a wide professional network, often the key to professional growth in any field.
3. Telehealth is boring and repetitious.
Telehealth nurses may handle up to 50 calls a day, each from a unique patient with a unique problem and set of circumstances. How could that be boring?
Whether or not telehealth is the answer to looming healthcare costs remains to be seen, but it is certainly a viable solution for many providers. For the patients, it reduces travel time and expense, wait time, and frustrations, as well as overall out-of-pocket costs. For telehealth nurses, is offers flexibility of hours, fewer physical demands, and fewer workplace hazards, such as needle sticks. The work is often at a slower, more relaxed pace, where the nurse can really talk to the patient, and the patient may be inclined to give more open answers to embarrassing problems if looking a nurse in the eye is not an issue. For the provider and the payer, the advantages are greatly reduced cost, including practice space, time per patient, and wasted time spent on minor issues.
One end goal of healthcare reform is to get non-emergency patients out of emergency rooms. Low-cost telehealth services are a cost-effective way to prevent complications stemming from otherwise minor issues that often wind up costing taxpayers a fortune and putting hospitals and clinics in an impossible financial position.
What’s your take? Will telehealth play a major role in healthcare reform, significantly easing the burden faced by providers? Or will it prove to be an impractical fad with no long-term effect on the industry?