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Role of Telehealth Nursing in Healthcare

Telehealth services are gaining traction as a viable alternative to in-person visits and a method for closely tracking a patient’s well-being from the comfort of their home. It can ensure continuity of care and healthcare access, regardless of patient location and without the expenses of travel or admission.

These benefits, coupled with improved telecommunications technology like smartphones and the internet, are expected to fuel demand further and change care delivery. The American Telemedicine Association predicts that by 2030, more than 50% of healthcare services will be conducted virtually.

What Is Telehealth Nursing?

According to the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), the telehealth nursing practice is a subspecialty of ambulatory care and “uses the nursing process to provide nursing care and access to healthcare for individual patients or patient populations via phone or other technology, occurring in multiple healthcare settings.”

The first telehealth nurses were “phone nurses” — nurses who answered patient calls outside of traditional office hours, triaged their concerns and escalated care as necessary. As technological capabilities expanded, nurses now have many more ways to connect with patients, including text messages, emails, video chats and apps.

Telehealth nurses use established clinical guidelines and algorithms to assess patients and prioritize care. They collaborate extensively with patients and members of the care team to determine treatment recommendations and relay follow-up instructions or educational information. They also regularly evaluate intervention outcomes.

Additional duties may include:

  • Providing support for patients and their families from diagnosis through the disease process and to end-of-life care
  • Promoting behaviors that optimize patient wellness
  • Assisting patients in learning to manage acute and chronic illnesses
  • Maintaining communication between patients and the care team
  • Coordinating care transitions

What Skills Do Telehealth Nurses Need?

Telehealth nurses may work with a specific patient population, such as cancer patients. Or, they may also care for a wider demographic, like the elderly, managing a variety of illnesses and diseases. Because of this, telehealth nurses benefit from having a varied skill set that includes:

  • A strong understanding of disease processes
  • Technical knowledge to navigate various digital platforms and devices
  • A commitment to continuous learning and improvement
  • An ability to work within strict guidelines, think critically and act quickly
  • A team-oriented, patient-centered mentality
  • Excellent communication and documentation standards

Nurses interested in this subspeciality typically earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and pursue certification. The Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC) is offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

What Are the Benefits of Telehealth Nursing?

The primary benefit of telehealth nursing is the ability to improve access to healthcare services. Providers can monitor patients virtually without the demands and expenses of travel. Improvements in technology, especially wearable devices and digital platforms, have streamlined data collection and communication, allowing nurses to engage with more patients than is generally possible in a face-to-face setting. Additional benefits include:

  • Individualized attention and support that reinforces optimal self-care practices
  • Improved quality of care due to nurses establishing one-on-one, ongoing relationships with patients and their support networks
  • Reduced healthcare costs due to fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions

What Are the Challenges of Telehealth Nursing?

Although the benefits of telehealth nursing are numerous, there are still some challenges to implementing this type of care, such as:

Intermittent internet access. Despite the rapid expansion of the internet across the nation, there remain areas, particularly rural locations, that do not have reliable service. This ultimately complicates and limits the reach of telehealth since it is largely using digital platforms.

Lack of qualified nurses. Telehealth nursing is a specialized field that requires continued education and time to gain experience and hone skills. Given the rapid growth in demand for telehealth services, it is possible there will not be enough nurses to fill available telehealth positions.

A Promising Nursing Subspecialty

Telehealth nursing has tremendous potential and represents a growing career opportunity for nurses with relevant skillsets. With the ability to bridge gaps in care, provide critical patient support and improve well-being, telehealth is poised to change the delivery of care.

Learn more about Lamar University’s Online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

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