June 21, 2023

Novel nurse-driven virtual care model supports nursing home residents and nurses who care for them

Potential implication for residents, their families, staff, administrators, long-term care industry leaders, policymakers and telehealth services providers

INDIANAPOLIS – A pilot study presents a novel nurse-driven virtual care model based on an in-person model developed by Regenstrief Institute research scientists and colleagues to support care delivery to long-term nursing home residents. Virtual clinical care is growing in importance as both the nursing home resident population and workforce shortage grow.

While many nursing homes in the U.S. have implemented telehealth for various purposes including engaging residents’ families in care planning sessions, discussing palliative care or facilitating physician coverage of residents during nights and weekends, virtual care has not been routinely applied to enhance or support resident care by nursing home staff.

“There are many aspects to providing clinical care in the nursing home setting and many tasks that are needed to safely care for residents are behind a computer,” said study co-author Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA, of Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine. “The goal of this study was to look carefully at what kind of clinical support well-trained nurses with nursing home experience, who have access to residents’ electronic medical records, can provide virtually to support clinical care in the facility.”

The nurses in this pilot program virtually reviewed the electronic medical records of residents transferred to the facility. They checked, for example, for changes in medications or dosage adjustments made during a hospital stay that might have been missed during the admission process.

“There are many times when nurses providing virtual clinical oversight can be helpful in acquiring information and filling workforce gaps,” said Dr. Unroe. “In addition to medication monitoring, if, for example, the discharge summary from the hospital notes a wound, the appearance and condition of the wound as well as care orders need to be clearly documented upon admission to the nursing home. If this information is not in the long-term care facility’s system right away, it can lead to problems later that could result in poor communication among clinical providers and potentially another hospitalization.”

Nurses piloting the virtual application of the highly successful OPTIMISTIC care model were interviewed for the new study to learn their perceptions of the virtually delivered variation. OPTIMISTIC, an acronym for Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical quality and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care, was developed to improve care and communication within nursing facilities and between nursing homes and acute care institutions enabling problems to be caught and dealt with before transport of a resident to the hospital becomes necessary.

OPTIMISTIC reduced potentially avoidable hospitalizations of nursing home residents by 33 percent and overall hospitalizations of nursing home residents by 20 percent.

Long-stay nursing home residents typically have high rates of multiple chronic illnesses including dementia. Hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations significantly increase the likelihood of reduced functioning and overall negative impact on their health.

Nurses in the pilot study of virtual clinical care support cited importance of:

  • a trusted relationship between the nurses providing virtual care support and the nursing home leadership/clinical staff;
  • customizing the program to meet the unique needs of each nursing home; and
  • consistent access to complete medical records to make timely recommendations specific to residents’ most current health status.

“Problems with transitions of care and concerns about clinical care in nursing homes are national issues,” said Dr. Unroe. “The findings of this paper are relevant to developing point-of-care models that can support the care of residents all over the country.”

Perceptions of Nurses Delivering Nursing Home Virtual Care Support: A Qualitative Pilot Study” is published in the peer-reviewed Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.

The authors note that this study has potential implications for nursing home residents and their families, nursing home staff and administrators, long-term care industry leaders, policymakers, as well as providers of telehealth services.

Dr. Unroe is co-founder, CEO, and chief medical officer of Probari, Inc., a medical startup building upon OPTIMISTIC to improve care of long-stay nursing home residents. The findings of this paper have been used to inform Probari’s use of the virtual clinical model, which has now been successfully implemented in multiple facilities providing clinical quality reviews of nursing home admissions and infections. Regenstrief Institute has invested in Probari.

Authors and their affiliations:
Carol A. Mills, PhD, M.D., R.N. – The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Health Policy and Administration, University Park, USA
Yvette Tran, M.D. – Indiana University, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Indianapolis, USA
Valerie A. Yeager, DrPh – Indiana University, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Indianapolis, USA
Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA – Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and Regenstrief Institute, IU Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, USA
Ann Homes, PhD – Indiana University, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Indianapolis, USA
Justin Blackburn, PhD – Indiana University, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Indianapolis, USA 

About Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA
In addition to being a research scientist at Regenstrief Institute, Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA, is an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and a practicing geriatrician.

About Regenstrief Institute
Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its research scientists are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.

Sam Regenstrief, a nationally successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute’s research mission.

About IU School of Medicine
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

About the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health
Located on the IUPUI and Fort Wayne campuses, the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health is committed to advancing the public’s health and well-being through education, innovation and leadership. The Fairbanks School of Public Health is known for its expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, cancer research, community health, environmental public health, global health, health policy and health services administration

Related News

Jenn Zucker, Brian Dixon and Graham Briggs join together to take a photo after the 2024 public health conference.

Public health professionals from across the U.S. talk data modernization at Regenstrief Institute conference

Left to right photo above: Jennifer Zucker, MPH, Brian Dixon, PhD, MPA, Graham Briggs, M.S. INDIANAPOLIS — Regenstrief Institute

Equitable opportunity for transplants: Experts provide disparity-sensitive measures for transplant centers

Equitable opportunity for transplants: Experts provide disparity-sensitive measures for transplant centers

INDIANAPOLIS – An Expert Insight, published in the journal Transplantation, highlights health equity, disparity and inequality in organ transplantation

Dawn Bravata, MD

Study provides blueprint for hybrid-virtual home visit model to support patients who do not live close to a hospital

In a new study, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), Regenstrief Institute, and Indiana University School of Medicine research