Study: Registered Nurses Vital to Home Care Technology Success

Technology is transforming the home care industry, but it hasn’t been easy to prove exactly how certain technology like telehealth and remote monitoring will help patient outcomes. However, there are now solid, research-backed tactics home care agencies can implement to increase positive health outcomes.

To see positive impacts of technology, home care companies need to focus on supporting and training their registered nurses as well as realizing that technology should not replace all human contact, according to a report released Wednesday from the University of California San Francisco.

The report, supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), studied the use of electronic remote monitoring technologies and telehealth services of organizations for patients receiving long-term in-home care as well as those with chronic conditions such as obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.

Focus on nurses

When it comes to ensuring positive outcomes from new technologies, training all workers who are caring for patients is important, but the primary health professionals involved in remote monitoring programs are nurses, Aubri Kottek, MPH, author of the report and research analyst at the Phil R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the Healthforce Center at the University of California San Francisco, told Home Health Care News.

“Predominantly nurses are the ones using the data from the telehealth or remote technology so this speaks to some of the training requirements that we need to make sure new graduates are equipped with,” she said.

Though health professionals like licensed practical nurses, medical assistants and community health workers could review the data first to check for red flags, nurses or mid-level providers are most often doing follow-up care, the report points out.

This also means agencies should focus more intensive training on nurses.

“The RNs’ scope of practice allows them the independence to utilize assessment skills while simultaneously following well-defined policies and procedures to communicate and act upon data,” the report says.

Tech can’t fix everything

Even though technology is where the health system wants to go, due to increasing the bottom line, it still cannot replace the human connection made between a nurse and patient, Kottek said.

“The findings are clear in the literature that people don’t want telehealth to replace human contact, they want to augment it,” a principal investigator who studied the aging process and health technology, said in the report. “We need to be cognizant that we don’t replace contact or home visits. When you walk in a home you’ll see a fall hazard you won’t see in a video conference.”

If home care providers can find a healthy balance of remote technology and human connection it will not only help the patients thrive, but improve the overall success of the provider, Kottek explained.

“I heard from several people during my research for the report say they’ve seen improvements in readmissions rates or have see how they can save money using telehealth or remote monitoring,” she said. “There’s the potential to do that if the program is developed mindfully and if you take into account the workflow and how efficient the program could be.”

See the full report from UCSF.

Written by Alana Stramowski