Any nurse who has spoken to a patient over the phone has practiced telehealth nursing. Telehealth is defined as “the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance” (“What Is Telehealth?,” n.d., para. 1). Although the use of technology changes how nursing care is delivered and may require competencies related to its use to deliver nursing care, the nursing process and scope of practice does not differ with telehealth nursing. Nurses engaged in telehealth nursing practice continue to assess, plan, intervene, and evaluate the outcomes of nursing care, but they do so using technology. In an environment of limited number of nurses, technology can help meet the need to provide nursing care and increase the efficiency of those nurses. When a patient leaves the hospital, the patient is responsible for his or her own health care at home. Telehealth services can make it more efficient to manage ongoing care and improve patient safety. Telehealth nursing is used when there is a need to deliver nursing care remotely and improve efficiency and access to healthcare.
Telehealth offers healthcare providers with an opportunity to serve people who are in poor health, live in remote areas and do not have adequate access to health care. One of the major benefits of telehealth is that it promotes safety in healthcare. Patients are being discharged from the hospital earlier than ever before, with numerous medications and often lacking the knowledge they need to care for their condition adequately. Telehealth allows these patients to return home, which saves money, but allows them to be supported by a professional until they are well or are managing their condition with confidence. Telehealth provides a safety net for patients who may be struggling with managing their condition at home, preventing complications that could result in being hospitalized again. There is a need for standards and guidelines to support telehealth nursing practice and to reduce liability risk for nurses.
Practice standards and guidelines are evidence-based, and many people are involved in the development and distribution of nursing telehealth practice standards. Input from a wide array of experts is solicited in developing the standards and guidelines, in order to assure adequate consideration of technological, medical, nursing, legal, and ethical issues. (Hutcherson, 2001) To ensure safe and high quality telehealth nursing practice, technical requirements for privacy and security of personal health data should adhere to local and national laws governing the storage and transmission of personal health information. The future of telehealth is promising, but it may not work for addressing the chronic care burden of every patient.
Telehealth is a means of enhancing an organization’s ability to provide quality care in patients’ homes and delay the need for expensive hospital admissions or traditional nursing home care. Besides cost savings and bridging healthcare access barriers in rural areas, telehealth provides the opportunity to gain significant medical insights by analyzing continuous health data for a patient collected through remote monitoring, combined with other data sources. Telehealth services extend the skills and knowledge that nurses use every day. It is also one of the most promising and practical solutions, available not only to address an inevitable nursing crisis, but also to bring modern day healthcare to more people and save more lives.
Hutcherson, MS, RN, C. M. (2001). Legal considerations for nurses practicing in a telehealth setting. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume62001/No3Sept01/LegalConsiderations.html What is telehealth? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hrsa.gov/healthit/toolbox/RuralHealthITtoolbox/Telehealth/whatistelehealth.html