Telemedicine program aids off-hour care at NJ nursing homes

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Ocean Healthcare Network, which operates a variety of long-term care facilities in New Jersey, has launched a telemedicine program to enable nurses to be able to connect with a contracted physician via a telemedicine consultation during overnight hours, weekends and other times when a physician is not available.

The network is in a pilot program with three of its 13 nursing facilities and is using the telemedicine services of TripleCare. The program increases the availability of clinicians when needed while reducing trips to the emergency department and hospital readmissions, says Joseph Bernfeld, administrator of the network’s Park Crescent Nursing and Rehabilitation facility in East Orange, N.J. Two other rehabilitation centers—South Mountain Healthcare and Hampton Ridge Healthcare—also are in the pilot program.

“Traditionally, off-hour emergencies in our facilities resulted in patients being sent to the area medical center’s emergency room, oftentimes unnecessarily,” says Joseph Kiernan, chief strategy officer at Ocean Healthcare. “This is disconcerting for patients and can cause an interruption in their regular care regimen that can prove to be counter-productive. In the past, we would likely have sent patients to the ER to ensure their stability. Now, with TripleCare, we can greatly reduce these ER visits while improving patient outcomes.”

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As night nurses make their rounds, if a patient is experiencing difficulty, they can call TripleCare and conduct a video teleconsultation, Bernfeld explains. “You can’t quantify the importance and value of reaching a physician at a moment’s notice.”

Nursing staff adjustment to the program was easier than expected, as they were excited to use the technology, he adds. Nurses and other clinician often don’t react well to policy or technical changes. However, the nurses realized that having a physician backup available makes them more comfortable with added confidence to be able to treat in-house and more confidence in their own decision making, while believing they are giving good care, which raises morale.

Equipment available to nurses during a consultation includes the telephone, a monitor, stethoscope and a hghi-resolution camera, among other items.

To date, 80 calls to TripleCare have been made since the launch in November 2017, and only five patients have been readmitted to the hospital.

“TripleCare along with nurses enhances and improves the quality of care,” says Pamela Gayle, director of nursing. “

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