VirtualCare reduces emergency transfers in LTC & retirement homes, study shows
The Waterloo-Wellington Behavioural Support Ontario-Nurse Led Outreach Team (BSO-NLOT) group recently conducted a three-month study evaluating the use of VirtualCare in long-term care and retirement homes to determine the impact of virtual physicians’ visits on the rate of emergency medical transfers to hospitals.
Of the 20 participating facilities in the Virtual Care Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA), eight long-term care homes and two retirement homes opted to use VirtualCare as their telemedicine platform of choice, whereas the remainder of homes used the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) eVisit platform.
Participating homes reported an average 27 percent decrease in emergency department visits and a 34 percent decrease in hospitalization rates when compared to non-participating homes from the months of April to September 2020, the study found.
Other key findings from the study include:
- Residents and families reported being very satisfied with the use of VirtualCare in long-term care and retirement: “One ED (emergency) transfer prevented with VirtualCare. Resident noted to be happy to speak with physician ‘face to face.’”
- VirtualCare supports both the provider and nursing process for conducting medical visits remotely, which is not attainable from regular telephone consults: “Before, nurses would need to wait for a physician to be out of a meeting to write a prescription. With virtual care, a physician writes a script during the meeting.”
A second report from The Waterloo-Wellington NLOT/BSO titled “Virtual Care Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA): An Innovative Response to COVID-19 Evaluative Report January 2021,” also found VirtualCare benefitted homes:
- “Think Research enjoyed excellent reviews from all homes on their training, many noting how “slick” the technology was by being integrated with the home’s electronic health record (EHR).”
- “One home in particular used Think Research’s platform to a great extent (71 visits over the course of the PDSA). This home had the highest readiness assessment scores. Correspondingly, the second and third highest users of virtual care had the 2nd and 3rd highest readiness assessment scores, respectively. This positive correlation between rank of readiness and use of virtual care was confirmed by a scatter plot.
- “Retirement homes, while not funded by the Ontario government, stand to benefit most, as well as the hospitals that service their ED transfers. With similar ED transfers and hospitalizations as LTC, and lower LOS (length of stay), the need to invest in a cost-effective solution that supports retirement homes is clear. Currently they have no alternative on nights and weekends but to send residents to the ED.”