Virtual Care Model Aims to Provide Clinical Support in Nursing Homes

By Mark Melchionna

In pursuit of enhanced clinical support in nursing homes, Regenstrief Institute researchers began a pilot study to create a virtual application of OPTIMISTIC, an in-person model that aims to improve workflow within nursing facilities.

According to the press release, nursing home populations are growing, as are workforce shortages within these facilities. Although virtual care is often used as a resource, nursing home staff rarely leverage it to support resident care.

However, to adjust this standard and provide further clinical care, researchers virtually piloted the OPTIMISTIC care model from Regenstrief Institute. An acronym for Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical quality and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care, OPTIMISTIC has a history of success. The program led to a 33 percent reduction in potentially avoidable hospitalizations of nursing home residents and a 20 percent decrease in overall hospitalizations among nursing home residents.

As nurses commenced the virtual application of this model, they did so with the goal of distinguishing how it could benefit nursing home residents.

“There are many aspects to providing clinical care in the nursing home setting and many tasks that are needed to safely care for residents are behind a computer,” said study co-author Kathleen T. Unroe, MD, MHA, of Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine, in a press release. “The goal of this study was to look carefully at what kind of clinical support well-trained nurses with nursing home experience, who have access to residents’ electronic medical records, can provide virtually to support clinical care in the facility.”

Following the transfer of a patient to the facility, nurses virtually reviewed their electronic medical record (EMR) data. They did this for the purpose of revealing any changes in services that took place during a hospital stay.

“There are many times when nurses providing virtual clinical oversight can be helpful in acquiring information and filling workforce gaps,” said Unroe.

When interviewed for opinions on the virtually-delivered form of OPTIMISTIC, nurses expressed similar values. These mainly related to the importance of an integral relationship between nurses and nursing home staff, the customization of programs, and up-to-date medical record data to support relevant recommendations.

Among many healthcare systems, virtual nursing programs are continuously on the rise.

In June, Providence announced plans to expand its hybrid nursing model following a successful pilot. Known as Co-Caring, this model aims to provide patients with integral care while benefiting caregivers. It does this through the inclusion of a virtual nurse assisting the bedside team, along with a bi-directional audio and video platform.

Through the virtual nurse, efficiency surrounding the handling of tasks related to admissions, discharge preparation, composing procedure checklists, and more arose.

Similarly, in February, Mary Washington Healthcare worked with Caregility to leverage its Inpatient Virtual Engagement (IVE solution). They did this for the purpose of using it to support a virtual nursing program within Stafford Hospital, providing a foundation for inpatient patient safety and care communications.

Through this program, clinicians use synchronous, video-enabled technology to assist patients who do not need hands-on assistance.

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