Is Telenursing for You?

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telenurseCareers in telehealth are expected to grow in the near future. Telenursing is a subset of telehealth and is defined as “the use of technology for delivering nursing care from a distance,” according to the American Telemedicine Association. Health analyst Skip Fleshman predicts telehealth will surge in 2015 because of a number of factors, including faster Internet connections, improved video chat technologies and the proliferation of mobile devices.

Cost has been the biggest hurdle to telehealth, also known as telemedicine. But Fleshman says in a Healthcare Business & Technology article that two key events will make a difference:

• Medicare and Medicaid started covering telehealth treatments for chronic diseases in January 2015.
• Half of all Medicare payments will be based on hospital outcomes and efficiency instead of the fee-for-service model by 2018.

Job opportunities for telenurses

Health insurance companies

Many insurance companies and managed care providers hire telenurses to work in call centers. These nurses conduct triage over the phone and determine the best level of care and treatment center for patients. They also educate and counsel patients on good health behaviors, communicate test results and provide follow-up care.

It’s no wonder that insurance companies are interested in hiring telenurses. Investing in telehealth saves money in the long run and decreases costly visits to the emergency room. In addition to insurance companies, telephone triage nurses may also work for physicians and health care facilities.

Hospitals

Telenurses are needed in hospitals to monitor patients’ vital signs in real time. Also known as telemetry nurses, they typically work with patients in critical condition who need constant monitoring in intensive care units (ICUs) and step down units. Because they work with complex equipment, telemetry RNs must be comfortable and proficient with health information technology and in interpreting data.

Hospitalized patients often need support as they transition to home care, and telenurses are an effective way to help bridge this gap. Patients are bombarded with information when they are discharged home and may feel overwhelmed and unable to follow instructions properly. Telenurses regularly check in with the patients to see how they’re recovering, answer any questions the patient or family member may have about follow-up care and medication dosages and recommend resources for medical equipment.

As more hospitals are evaluated on readmissions and patient outcomes, the demand for telenurses will likely increase. In addition to hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and other acute care facilities may also hire telenurses for patient follow-up care.

Home care agencies

The need for telenurses to monitor people at home will continue to grow as a large percentage of the population reaches retirement age. Technology has become more sophisticated and can monitor a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, weight and blood glucose remotely through a phone or Internet connection. Telenurses interpret the data and track patterns over time.

When they see a decline in health, they can intervene before the individual requires hospitalization. This remote monitoring eliminates travel time for home visits, and the nurses are able to care for more patients.

Chronic illness management

Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, COPD, cancer, heart conditions and degenerative neurological disorders are prime candidates for telenursing. These roles are typically for nurse case managers and health coaches who work in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, insurance companies or as independent consultants.

Telenurses help patients learn to manage their symptoms and improve their health behaviors. As the patients become more involved in their care, they are better able to see how their actions affect their health and experience a better quality of life as a result. Telenurses can also coordinate care among different health providers.

How to become a telenurse

Telenursing is ideal for experienced RNs who are looking for a less physically demanding job. Most telenurses have at least 10 years’ clinical experience and have worked in emergency or acute care departments, home health or other nursing specialties.

Nurses working in this role must have strong clinical and critical thinking skills to make assessments without seeing the patient in person. It’s also essential that they practice active listening and have clear communication skills.

There is no national certification requirement for telenurses in the U.S., but some specialties require or recommend certification. The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) has more information on specific certification requirements. Telenurses may require an additional license if they practice across state lines.

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