Acute Care Telehealth Expands Access in Community Hospitals
Telemedicine technology connects community hospitals with specialized experts, closing gaps in knowledge and keeping care local.
// By Jane Weber Brubaker //
When patients in a rural community get sick and need access to intensive care or specialized care, the typical small community hospital — if there is one — doesn’t have experts on-site to manage their care needs — and transferring them to a large tertiary care center may not be an option if no beds are available.
In these instances, acute care telehealth is helping patients receive the right care without having to leave their local community, a benefit to the patient, their family, the local hospital, and the tertiary care center.
In a JAMA article, “Paying for Telemedicine in Smaller Rural Hospitals: Extending the Technology to Those Who Benefit Most,” the authors state, “By bringing a consulting specialist virtually to the patient’s bedside, telemedicine may enable patients to receive the care they need closer to home. In doing so, smaller hospitals struggling to stay open may be able to retain more patients and improve their financial footing.” (JAMA Viewpoint, 8/27/21).
Teresa Rincon, RN, PhD, CCRN-K, FCCM, is assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Graduate School of Nursing, and senior telehealth consultant with Blue Cirrus Consulting. “It’s not that they don’t practice excellent nursing and medicine at these community hospitals, rural hospitals, and other places,” she says. “It’s just that they may not have experienced the types of things that a particular patient is demonstrating in their disease state or syndrome. We can provide those resources over telecommunication technologies in small rural community-based places. That’s all they need.”
Here, we explore some of the ways acute care telehealth is expanding access to care, improving the finances of struggling hospitals, and relieving the pressure health systems are experiencing due to persistent staffing shortages.