Telemedicine and Nursing: How Technology is Creating a New Category of Care Provider
With the implementation of the Health Care Reform Bill has come an attempt to completely shift the focus of the American health care system. Whereas the common practice has been for providers to be paid for patient services as they are needed, new guidelines and recommendations seem to be pushing towards a more preventative care model, where clinicians and insurance companies alike are encouraging patients to adopt heathier lifestyles that will keep them from needing to seek treatment so often. This new proposed movement, in conjunction with the advent of new technologies, allows for the option of telehealth services, where patients are able to seek medical advice and transmit treatment info via online resources. This shift towards remote treatment has not come without its challenges, specifically in the area of creating synergy between telemedicine and nursing.
A Brief History of Telehealth Services
Yet truth be told, telehealth services are not something that has arisen from the advent of recent healthcare reform. It’s only recently that the need to find the right mix of resources for telemedicine and nursing has been recognized. Remote patient care actually draws its roots from the earliest days of the space program. The need to see to the care of astronauts separated from health care providers by the vast ocean of space led NASA to develop the very first telemedicine programs in the late 1960’s. It wasn’t until nearly twenty-five years later, however, that such programs first began to be considered as a valid treatment option for the general population. Yet since being first introduced, telemedicine has seen a rapid rise. In 1993, there were only twelve such programs listed as active in the U.S. Today, more than half of all of the hospitals in the country provide telehealth services, with 800,000 online consultations having been performed in 2015 alone.
Making the Connection Between Telemedicine and Nursing
Exactly what are the tools that support telehealth services, and what are the specific connections between telemedicine and nursing More than informational sites offering general healthcare info, telehealth applications include programs that allow for the following online interactions:
-Consultations between health care providers and patients via webcam
-Remote monitoring of patient vital signs and other treatment data
-Interactive patient education modules
-The coordination of lifestyle management services
-Online referrals between health care providers
-Identifying emergency treatment options in an immediate area
With all of these services comes a massive exchange of information related specifically to patient care. The responsibility of reviewing this information, consulting with physicians, and directing the medical response falls to nurse managers and specific members of their teams. Typically, they’re the ones who communicate with patients regarding the results of their in-home monitoring and the need to seek further treatment from their doctors. The technological tools that allow for this new form of patient-provider interaction have given rise to a completely new category of healthcare provider: the telehealth nurse.
Identifying the Ideal Telehealth Nurse Candidate
As the link between telemedicine and nursing continues to strengthen, your job as a health care staffing or nursing department manager becomes finding those nurses whose patient care skills will translate nicely into this new realm. Every qualified nurse should bring with him or her basic core competencies that allow for effective treatment. However, given the unique challenges that telemedicine presents, additional skills will be required in order for a candidate to qualify as a potential telehealth nurse.
For starters, a basic level of comfort with computer technologies is a must. As information is shared remotely and stored in databases that are often integrated across multiple hospitals and clinics, a potential telehealth nurse should be acquainted with applications such as video conferencing, web chat, and instant messaging. Database management and data mining skills are also a plus. Such techniques can be taught, but typically not without having a knowledge base already in place.
Along with technical skills comes the need for telehealth nurses to demonstrate an aptitude for analysis. As patient information is not being related face-to-face, a telehealth nurse must have adequate diagnostic skills in order to effectively evaluate the information that patient’s share via their apps, spot any potential problems, and then relay their concerns to doctors to make decisions regarding treatment.
No matter the future of the health care reimbursement model, recent history seems to imply that the marriage between telemedicine and nursing services is one that is here to stay. This places an even greater responsibility on you as a manager of healthcare services to assemble the right nursing staff that will be able to best meet the needs of your remote patient population. Not to worry, though; Mighty Recruiter can provide you the requisite tools needed to identify strong telehealth nurse candidates. With the help of Mighty Recruiter’s resources, your team will be well-equipped to handle all of the challenges that this new frontier of healthcare has to present.