Nursing Homes Not Turning to Telemedicine

Even though it would seem to be a natural fit, a host of cultural, regulatory and insurance barriers keep the technology at bay.

Nursing homes for the most part don’t have a physician on staff 24/7 so when a resident experiences some sort of medical problem the default reaction among staff is to take the patient to the hospital. As Politico reports, this represents a lost opportunity for the health care system to save millions of dollars, citing studies that say that two thirds of admissions to hospitals from nursing homes are avoidable.

Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover telemedicine visits in nursing homes. MedPAC, the commission that advises Congress on Medicare, is wary, saying that telemedicine implementation should go slowly. This, at a time when telemedicine makes inroads elsewhere in the health care system. Insurance claims for telemedicine usage grew 53% from 2016 to 2017, Politico notes, citing a report from FH Healthcare Indicators.

However, in a report last year, MedPAC said that “commercial plan coverage of telehealth services is not uniform” and that adoption in that sector seems spurred by “employer demands and competition rather than cost savings.”

Patients and many providers are also not convinced about telemedicine’s benefits, Politico reports.