Healthcare stands to gain a considerable amount from the widespread integration of telemedicine. Through its implementation, patients and practitioners can enjoy reduced wait and travel times, as well as improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Skilled nursing facilities are no exception, if not one of the areas of healthcare that will benefit the most.

Making a decisive effort to implement telemedicine will ultimately present a host of positive effects that improve patient care and satisfaction, as well as overall organizational efficiency and effectiveness. If your facility lacks a telemedicine precedent, however, some hurdles may arise as a result. Fortunately, there is a lot to learn about these challenges and the solutions that will ensure a seamless transition into a more digitized world.

Here are some of the most common hurdles encountered when implementing telemedicine and how to overcome them.

Underwhelming Buy-In

Surprisingly, and sadly, one of the biggest challenges that impacts telemedicine often comes from healthcare professionals themselves. With the exception of counseling and psychiatry, a majority of general and specialized fields routinely demonstrate a lackluster attitude toward the integration of telemedicine practices and technology. While this is gradually changing, it’s still a challenge many healthcare executives have faced at their own organizations.

The reason for this reservation is largely due to uncertainty. For professionals who work in skilled nursing facilities, for example, staff may worry that the introduction of telemedicine may increase their existing workloads and negatively impact the quality of care they can provide to patients or residents. Naturally, these concerns are reasonable, but it is important for institutions to be able to alleviate those concerns and convey the practical benefits of telemedicine.

By presenting compelling data, creating specific telemedicine programs that suit the facility, and offering comprehensive, informative training, institutions can encourage staff members to be more receptive and enthusiastic about new technology.

Regulatory Obstacles

Another common concern regarding the implementation of telemedicine relates to legal and regulatory obstacles. Telemedicine can bypass geographical boundaries, allowing patients to consult with healthcare professionals regardless of state lines, and while this practice can be convenient and effective for patients, inconsistencies can occur between different states’ licensing and regulation standards.

Because of these discrepancies, facilities that implement telemedicine should be cautious when consulting with patients outside their typical jurisdiction. Without standardized regulations, sharing patient data, prescribing medications, and providing general care can be difficult if the patient resides in a different state or region, so it is best to restrict your practice to a specific area when first adopting telemedicine.

Reimbursement Challenges

Compared to in-person consultations, reimbursement rates for telemedicine have consistently been slower, resulting in greater hesitation among providers to adopt the technology. However, it is important to acknowledge that, as more facilities have begun adopting telemedicine, the return on investment has been consistently strong.

While a typical low acuity in-person consultation or visit may take up to half an hour, the use of telemedicine can significantly reduce that time, freeing up the amount of time professionals can dedicate to patients with more specialized or urgent needs. An added benefit is the fact that telemedicine allows professionals to give more attention to high acuity patients without increasing their workload.

With a smart telemedicine strategy in place, effective training, and the knowledge that telehealth can improve care for patients by freeing up healthcare professionals’ schedules, telemedicine can be just as valuable as in-person care.

Training & Equipment Expansions

In some ways, proper telemedicine training is the most important element of ensuring that the integration of such technology is effective. Knowing how to structure and implement telehealth training may come as a challenge to institutions without experience. 

For the training to be effective, facilities must ensure they have the right hardware to support telemedicine, which includes a strong Wi-Fi connection and functional devices. Additionally, facilities should anticipate needing to train staff and patients to a higher degree. Giving all parties an advanced notice of the impending changes will help reduce stress and improve the effectiveness of the technology.

As we have seen during the pandemic, the future of healthcare will benefit immensely from the broad integration of telemedicine. Skilled nursing facilities and other specialized practices that are keen on implementing telemedicine should be aware of the obstacles they may encounter so that they can take proactive measures and address any issues as they arise.