November 29, 2017, Maggie Flynn, Skilled Nursing News - Saber Healthcare Group has implemented its first telemedicine program, in partnership with TeleCare Partners Group (TPG). The program will be rolled out to Saber’s 88 skilled nursing facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.
The program launch started in the first week of October, with a total of 28 facilities folded into the program so far, Mike Demagall, vice president of population health at Saber Healthcare, told Skilled Nursing News. All Saber’s SNFs will be part of the program by the end of the first quarter of the company’s fiscal 2018, if everything goes as planned, he said.
Saber’s facilities will make use of the telemedicine technology when physicians are away — typically nights, weekends and holidays. It will also be available when a patient’s doctor can’t be reached or requests a second opinion.
Doctors affiliated with TPG will be used for the initial launch of the program, Demagall said. But as the platform expands, with its second and third iterations, Saber will be able to use its existing base of physician partners, as well as specialists, hospitalists and other doctors.
“As we bring this further, it’s going to improve that continuity of care because we’re going to be able to open this up to family practitioners and to hospital specialists that [patients have] seen,” Demagall said.
The program will cost at least $2 million a year, he said. However, Saber expects a wide variety of benefits from the investment.
The company’s transitional care model, the Progressive Approach to Home (PATH), has led to a decline in Saber’s overall hospital readmission rate, bringing it to around 15% to 17%, Demagall said. Through the use of telehealth, Saber is hoping for an additional 20% to 45% reduction, with a companywide goal of reducing readmissions to below 10%, he added.
One of the greatest benefits telehealth offers is improvement of patient care, Demagall said.
“Ultimately with that comes an improvement in patient satisfaction because they have the ability to have that physician right there at their bedside,” he explained. “So I think care and patient satisfaction are the primary things that we’re going to see.”
But it won’t just be the patients benefiting.
“I think we’re going to see employee satisfaction and employees enhancing their clinical ability,” Demagall said.
Doctors directing a patient assessment through telehealth will let nurses improve their own skills, he explained, adding that Saber saw this benefit when it piloted the telehealth program for two years at two Pennsylvania facilities.
“With skilled nursing facilities, as a nurse you’re there on an island,” Demagall said. “There are not a lot of physicians, especially nights and weekends, and this really gives the nurse that lifeline and that ability to have that physician there to support their decision-making, as well as to support the patient.”