The widespread embrace and expansion of telehealth may go down as one of the top long-term positive developments to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a pair of tech players in the nursing home space this week announced a new partnership aimed at building on that momentum.
Telemedicine provider and primary care practice TapestryHealth inked a deal to incorporate its tech with Rosie Connectivity Solutions, a provider of devices and clinical data systems that integrate with electronic health records (EHR) under the Nurse Rosie brand.
The goal, according to TapestryHealth chief operating officer and co-founder Mordy Eisenberg, is to combine two separate threads of nursing home telehealth strategy: remote monitoring of vital signs, and greater physician access to residents of post-acute and long-term care facilities.
“We’ve been after this type of arrangement almost since our inception,” Eisenberg told SNN. “We’ve met with different hardware vendors, and we always saw being able to manage vitals as a big piece of what we can do.”
During the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government and payers slashed a variety of long-standing restrictions related to telehealth as a key strategy to maintain the continuity of care — for both nursing home residents and others — when in-person appointments became too dangerous.
The future of telehealth coverage past the declared coronavirus emergency remains unclear, with nagging gaps in Medicare coverage for nursing home residents and real concerns about fraud, as well as the potential overuse of virtual visits at the expense of face-to-face interaction. But both industry analysts and health officials have predicted that reverting back to the prior status quo is unlikely given consumer satisfaction and some clear upsides for care.
For the Stratford, Conn.-based TapestryHealth, those upsides include the ability to detect troubling changes in resident condition before they escalate to a serious health emergency that could lead to complications, hospitalization, and death. With the vast majority of frontline caregivers in nursing homes consisting of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and not higher-level clinicians, certain subtle shifts in patient metrics may fall through the cracks, Eisenberg said.
“We can do things if you tell us about it, but they’re not telling us when there are problems,” he said.
TapestryHealth and Rosie aren’t the only companies in the remote-monitoring and telehealth game, with firms such as RealTime Medical Systems and Curve Health also looking to bolster nursing homes’ ability to catch issues before the hospital. Reduced hospitalizations have emerged as a major focus for nursing home operators in recent years, with both resident safety and payments at stake; the federal government penalizes facilities for high hospital readmission rates under the SNF Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) program, and too many transfers can also jeopardize operators’ standing among referral partners such as hospitals and home health agencies.
Eisenberg gave the examples of temperature and blood oxygen, overwhelmingly important vital signs during the COVID-19 pandemic. A given forehead-scan thermometer might naturally record temperatures a bit lower than traditional oral models, he noted, so that a reading of 99 may seem of no concern to someone unaware of the trend — but would raise alarm bells for someone who knew that the prior baseline was 97.
Monitoring tech would be able to track those trends and alert a remote nurse or physician immediately, without delays caused by staffing shortages or high workloads.
“You’re always being told too late,” Eisenberg said of changes in condition.
With about 20% of nursing facilities across the country using the Rosie system, according to the company, Eisenberg sees expansion potential ahead.
“Being able to alert around that, and escalate that so they can do something about it, just gives us a much higher level of care and monitoring capabilities,” Eisenberg said. “Putting these two together is going to make a big difference.”