How Senior Care Communities Can Leverage Telemedicine to Improve Quality of Care

On June 30, 2024, South Dakota Senate Bill 209 will go into effect. The bill appropriates $5,000,000 in federal funds for grants to nursing homes and assisted living centers. Recipient facilities will be able to use the grants to buy and install telemedicine technology and infrastructure.

It’s evidence of the growing importance of telemedicine in senior care. A 2022 AARP study identified ongoing older adult interest in using telehealth, even as in-person appointments again became available after the early years of the pandemic. According to the study, approximately one third of adults age 50 and over reported that they were either extremely or very interested in using telehealth services for themselves or a loved one.

Telehealth offers significant benefits to senior care, with communities implementing new technology to ensure quality care. Read on to learn how telemedicine can benefit your facility and what factors to consider when choosing a platform.

How Telemedicine Benefits Senior Care Communities


Victoria Walker, MD, CMD, Medical Director and Clinical Officer Family Medicine, Senior Care at Avel eCare

Victoria Walker, MD, CMD, Medical Director and Clinical Officer Family Medicine, Senior Care at Avel eCare, explains that telehealth helps the senior care industry with the numerous challenges it faces. “High turnover rates and competition for staff are serious issues, compounded by the shortage of physicians who specialize in geriatric medicine or choose to provide care for people living in nursing homes,” she explains. Walker notes that senior care communities are under significant pressure to avoid unnecessary hospital visits, which not only reduced healthcare costs, but which also ensures the health, safety, and comfort of residents.

“Telemedicine helps to ease those challenges,” says Walker. “Quality care and consistent documentation reduce the risk of citations and better capture the complexity of the residents. Telemedicine can augment a facility’s clinical staff with affordable and reliable support, reduce burnout and turnover, meet census goals, and increase financial stability. Ultimately this improves care for seniors.”

How Senior Care Communities Are Using Telemedicine

Walker explains that senior care communities can use telemedicine in many ways, depending on the facility’s specific needs. “On-site staff can connect directly with a geriatric-trained provider to assess and treat urgent conditions such as increased confusion, rash, cough, abdominal pain, or fever,” she says. “The use of telemedicine often prevents costly and stressful transfers to the emergency department.”

Telemedicine can also improve resident safety, since it allows for timely follow-ups on diagnostic test results, script requests, diabetic care, and care coordination with nurse triage and education. Additionally, telemedicine allows for convenient and comprehensive behavioral health support. This support can include evaluation and management of conditions like depression, dementia, serious and persistent mental illnesses, and substance use disorders.

Walker also notes that telemedicine can augment the nursing workforce with remote nursing assessment and administrative support, including admissions and discharge services.

With senior care communities facing ongoing staffing challenges, telemedicine can also help alleviate burnout and help fill coverage gaps. “Nurses, PCPs, and other clinical staff don’t have to be on call all hours of the night and on weekends when facilities are covered with 24/7 access to a team of geriatric-trained clinicians,” says Walker. “Staff are able to maintain a work-life balance, impacting recruitment and retention.”

Considerations in Choosing a Telemedicine Platform

“Partnering with an experienced telemedicine provider is often the most efficient and cost-effective way to deploy telemedicine,” Walker shares. “It helps to partner with someone who can provide an end-to-end solution that includes the technology, tools, and specially trained clinicians required to deliver high-quality virtual care.”

Walker explains that it’s important for senior care communities to choose a telemedicine partner that allows for a personalized, holistic approach to care. “Having a clinical team who primarily works with seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is invaluable, because they have both the clinical expertise and the awareness of what is available and possible in this setting of care to be effective,” she says.

Additionally, look for an organization that has a proven track record in telemedicine. “You want them to have effective remote technology tools that are simple to use in clinical examinations and experience in the operational details of deployment, EMR integration, security and scheduling,” says Walker.

She explains that while telemedicine platforms and infrastructure require an upfront investment, many Avel eCare partners experience both short-term and long-term cost savings. “By reducing staff turnover and maximizing the efficiency of their local nursing teams, there is reduced use of expensive contracted employees,” says Walker. “In addition, the improved quality of care results in better outcomes, which is reflected in higher census and better reimbursement through value-based purchasing programs.”

Topics: Facility management , Featured Articles , General Technology , Operations