With COVID-19 subvariants and nursing shortages on the rise, hospitals and healthcare providers must look at ways to continue providing high-quality care for their patients.
In this article, we’ll briefly examine the effects of rising COVID-19 subvariants and nursing shortages on our current healthcare system and how healthcare providers can use telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) to alleviate the issue.
COVID-19 Subvariants and the Nursing Shortage: Impact on Healthcare
In the U.S., hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have doubled since May 2022, driven by contagious omicron subvariants of the virus, BA.4 and BA.5. Both variants of the virus are more transmissible, and immunity gained from previous vaccinations or infection may not protect against them.
In addition to the rise of COVID-19 subvariants, the health crisis is further exacerbated by a global nursing shortage, with reports projecting that over 1 million new registered nurses will be needed by 2030 to address the current healthcare demand in the U.S.
With increased admissions to the emergency department, higher mortality rates, and more stress placed on existing nurses, adding COVID-19 hospitalizations to that equation has led to an overwhelmed healthcare system and burnt-out staff, which could affect quality of care.
What is the optimal nurse-to-patient ratio?
According to Federal regulation 42CFR 482.23(b) that describes nursing services for hospitals under Medicare, it’s required that hospitals:
…have adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients as needed. There must be supervisory and staff personnel for each department or nursing unit to ensure, when needed, the immediate availability of a registered nurse for bedside care of any patient.”
But, that doesn’t quite answer the question of what’s the appropriate ratio of nurses to patients in a healthcare setting. Nurses play an important role in improving care quality and reducing avoidable readmissions, and the nursing shortage is spurring healthcare providers to think strategically about how they allocate their resources.
Some of the considerations include:
- How can healthcare providers help nurses ease their burden and ensure more of their time is spent on impactful patient care?
- How can healthcare providers ensure patients still receive quality interaction and care with their nurses?
The Role of Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring
By leveraging technology, healthcare providers can navigate the nursing shortage by providing telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) for COVID-19 patients. With telehealth and RPM, you can empower patients and provide acute-level care from their homes via a dedicated Hospital at Home program.
What Is Hospital at Home (HaH)?
Hospital at Home is an innovative care model that provides hospital-level care in a patient’s home, acting as a complete substitute for acute hospital care within the facility.
To run a successful Hospital at Home program, your healthcare facility must incorporate an effective telehealth and RPM solution that works for your patients and your staff members.
Benefits of Hospital At Home
Investing in a Hospital at Home program for your facility can produce various benefits, the most important being the ability to provide high-quality care for your patients and reduce the burden placed on overworked hospital staff.
Avoid unnecessary hospitalizations
Lower cost of care
Improve patient outcomes
For Healthcare Workers
Support the work of staff and reduce the risk of nursing burnout
Manage patients better, especially those that cannot be admitted due to staff shortages
Reduce the occurrence of Emergency Room (ER) Diversion
Provide quality healthcare services remotely
4 Ways Telehealth & RPM Contribute to An Effective HaH Program
1 Prevention and Screening
Telehealth can significantly improve patient access to screening services for COVID-19 symptoms, which can help providers determine which patients need further care.
It can also be used as an education platform to teach patients about COVID-19, such as quarantine procedures, virus epidemiology, vaccine efficacy and availability, and how to respond if symptoms arise.
2 Patient Monitoring
Using a variety of Bluetooth peripherals, COVID-19 patients can use a telehealth platform to record symptoms, take temperatures, and provide essential vital sign readings to their provider without the need of a nurse to do so.
With RPM, providers can easily track a patient’s symptoms and health over time, making better decisions regarding their patient’s care plan and adjusting their treatment accordingly.
3 Staff Safety
Given the infectious nature of COVID-19 and its latest subvariants, it’s vital to staff safety that they spend only the necessary amount of time around positive patients.
With RPM, patients and healthcare facilities can avoid the risk of unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 and prevent the transmission of the disease to others at the same facility.
4 Patient Loneliness and Isolation
Undergoing self-quarantine while recovering from COVID-19 can be a lonely and isolating experience, especially for the elderly and vulnerable patient populations.
Utilizing telehealth, care providers can help mitigate the adverse effects of quarantine by providing virtual visits that can give patients the support they need.
Caregivers and other family members can also be included in these video calls as part of the patient’s care plan, which can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.
How HRS Can Help
HRS’ telehealth and RPM solution enables real-time biometric monitoring and provider-patient communication through virtual visits, symptom surveys, medication reminders, and more.
- To support your COVID-19 response, HRS offers a COVID-Kit that comes with:
- A tablet.
- Bluetooth monitoring devices like a thermometer, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure cuff.
- Pre-downloaded COVID-19 Clinical Pathways tools that include COVID-19 screening, symptom management surveys, custom education, and accompanying clinical best practices on symptom survey cadence and real-time video visits.
- HRS also has the Virtual Visit Model, which mobilizes its virtual visit and RPM capabilities to increase the total number of patient encounters with their home care nurses while reducing in-person nursing visits.
- There’s also a COVID-19 telehealth and RPM resource page that provides all the information you need about our solutions.
In action: Metro Health’s COVID-19 program
In November 2020, Metro Health partnered with HRS to launch a telehealth and RPM program focused on COVID-19 mitigation.
Over five months after telehealth and RPM implementation, Metro Health:
- Avoided an average of 9.5 days in the hospital for over 80 patients.
- Scored a 94% patient satisfaction rate.
- Helped 93% of patients felt more supported.
- Achieved a 92% daily patient adherence rate.