Providence Rest, a nonprofit Bronx nursing home, has started working with StationMD, a Scotch Plains, N.J.-based telemedicine company to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits by its patients.
The six-month pilot is funded by an innovation grant from Bronx Partners for Healthy Communities, a Performing Provider System participating in the state Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program. The goal of the pilot is to reduce hospital readmissions for medically frail patients.
Jean Bartley-Christie, director of nursing at 200-bed Providence Rest, said the service is most useful on nights and weekends when the nursing home has less physician coverage. On-call physicians or nurse practitioners during those times are less likely to know the patient and might not have access to patients’ medical records.
“Their first inclination may be to send them to the hospital,” Bartley-Christie said, noting that StationMD physicians have access to patients’ medical records. “This way we can avert that.”
For one female patient, who was suffering from respiratory distress, nurses at Providence Rest were able to call a StationMD physician who prescribed medication. After the patient was stabilized, the physician called twice during the night to follow up.
Bartley-Christie said the nursing home has used the service about 10 times in two months, but it may increase its usage as nurses become more comfortable with the technology. Nurses use a telemedicine cart equipped with a laptop, a digital camera and an electronic stethoscope, which allows physicians to listen to patients’ lungs and heart remotely.
StationMD is reimbursed by most clients by a monthly fee “so that there’s no concern about the number of calls they’re making,” said Meghan Calichman, vice president of operations at StationMD.
As nursing homes entering value-based payment arrangements have looked for ways to reduce avoidable hospitalizations, other local telemedicine companies such as Call9 and TripleCare have also catered to their needs.
Calichman said the nursing homes that use StationMD also stand to save money by keeping their beds filled. Other StationMD clients include seven Cassena Care nursing homes and the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State. The company, which is looking to raise a Series A round of venture capital, said it has reduced ER transfers at its nursing home clients by 38% compared with the previous year.
Bartley-Christie said it helps for patients to have continuity in their care. “Moving them back and forth is not good for recovery,” she said. —J.L.