UW study looking at telehealth to increase safety in nursing homes during pandemic

MADISON, Wis. — A new research study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health hopes to lower the amount of coronavirus spread in nursing homes throughout the state by expanding telehealth infrastructure.

With nursing homes having been significantly impacted during the pandemic, the news release said switching from in-person appointments to virtual meetings is one way to combat outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

UW-Madison Associate Professor of Infectious Disease Dr. Christopher Crnich is leading the study.

“We saw this as an opportunity to study how telehealth implementation occurs; the barriers and challenges with rapid implementation, and the opportunities to redesign the telehealth work model in nursing homes to make it more efficient and effective,” Crnich said.

The study aims to gather data so Crnich’s team can design and incorporate a new telehealth model. So far, research includes conducting a workflow analysis, staff interviews and observing telehealth meetings at four Dane County nursing homes.

Preliminary data has revealed the complexities of implementing a telehealth model, as organizing telehealth meetings would be one more responsibility added to staff members’ sizable list of tasks.

“There are challenges, but improved telehealth could mean fewer costly clinic visits for nursing home residents and more frequent assessments that can facilitate faster patient care,” Crnich said.

The UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and Wisconsin Partnership Program 2020 COVID-19 Response Grant Award are funding the study.