The use of telemedicine increased dramatically in nursing homes (NHs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, little is known about the actual process of conducting a telemedicine encounter in NHs. The objective of this study was to identify and document the work processes associated with different types of telemedicine encounters conducted in NHs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A mixed methods convergent study was utilized. The study was conducted in a convenience sample of two NHs that had newly adopted telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants included NH staff and providers involved in telemedicine encounters conducted in the study NHs. The study involved semi-structured interviews and direct observation of telemedicine encounters and post-encounter interviews with staff and providers involved in telemedicine encounters observed by research staff. The semi-structured interviews were structured using the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (SEIPS) model to collect information about telemedicine workflows. A structured checklist was utilized to document steps performed during direct observations of telemedicine encounters. Information from interviews and observations informed the creation of a process map of the NH telemedicine encounter.
A total of 17 individuals participated in semi-structured interviews. Fifteen unique telemedicine encounters were observed. A total of 18 post-encounter interviews with 7 unique providers (15 interviews in total) and three NH staff were performed. A 9-step process map of the telemedicine encounter, along with two microprocess maps related to encounter preparation and activities within the telemedicine encounter, were created. Six main processes were identified: encounter planning, family or healthcare authority notification, pre-encounter preparation, pre-encounter huddle, conducting the encounter, and post-encounter follow-up.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the delivery of care in NHs and increased reliance on telemedicine services in these facilities. Workflow mapping using the SEIPS model revealed that the NH telemedicine encounter is a complex multi-step process and identified weaknesses related to scheduling, electronic health record interoperability, pre-encounter planning, and post-encounter information exchange, which represent opportunities to improve and enhance the telemedicine encounter process in NHs. Given public acceptance of telemedicine as a care delivery model, expanding the use of telemedicine beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for certain NH telemedicine encounters, could improve quality of care.