Nursing Home Telemedicine Grants Aim to Combat Travel Challenges, Staff Stress 

State legislators appear to be turning more toward telemedicine to help deliver care in nursing homes, as the staffing shortage persists and trips for appointments outside of a facility can be difficult for residents and staff alike.

Two pieces of legislation in South Dakota signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem are tied to $7 million in grants total, some of which will offer funding for the implementation and expansion of telehealth services via the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a report from South Dakota News Watch. Funding will also aim to boost technology innovations in the state in order to improve quality of life and care outcomes among residents, and support nursing home workers.

The move is in line with opportunities seen by providers in the state, including the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society which is one of the largest nursing home operators in the United States, and has planned expansion of virtual care as an important part of its strategy.


Coupled with the grants for telemedicine, South Dakota has raised the Medicaid reimbursement rate by 25% in 2023 and 4% this year.

Seventeen long-term care facilities have closed in the state over the past five years due to financial struggles and the worker shortage.

Senate Bills 209 and 80 – those tied to telemedicine – were borne from the 2023 summer legislative session, according to News Watch. Legislators recognized that travel to appointments often meant hooking or unhooking medical equipment, bundling of patients into warm clothes, helping them into their wheelchair or walker into a van and waiting a long time to see a specialist that may not have access to their medical records, the report stated.


Not to mention the additional illnesses that may be picked out at a hospital or outpatient center, and resident stress associated with appointment travel. Telemedicine boosts will be especially beneficial in rural areas of the state, Executive Director for the South Dakota Health Care Association Mark Deak told the SD News Watch.

“Rural areas just have very unique challenges due to location when it comes to attracting staff and providing the services they need to,” Deak said. “They don’t have access to the medical support that you’d have in an urban setting.”

Nursing home residents can get a medical diagnosis and care almost immediately using telemedicine, Sioux Falls-based Avel eCare told SD News Watch. A facility staff member is in the room with the resident while the medical specialist is working remotely.

Legislators and nursing home operators hope more telemedicine will aid in recruiting and retention of facility staff, particularly certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Adding telemedicine will hopefully result in less stress for staff, since they won’t have to prepare as many patients for transport to hospitals or emergency rooms, reports said. They would likely be able to treat residents on site after a telehealth visit.

Continuing care retirement community (CCRC) Dow Rummel Village has been using telemedicine in its skilled nursing wing for several years, and the grants would allow for expansion to other parts of the care continuum under its roof, which cares for about 315 residents, News Watch reported.

Innovation in telemedicine could help predict falls, catch signs of sepsis infections earlier, along with aiding in nutrition plan development for residents.

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