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Technology Brings Doctors Directly to Nursing Home Residents

Eleanor Grayson is examined with a telehealth machine in her home at The Village at Summerville.
Tabitha Safdi/SCETV

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 South Carolinians lived in nursing homes in 2015.

Some nursing home residents can still be mostly independent, while others require constant care. Dr. Russ Blackwelder, the associate medical director at The Village at Summerville, says his patients will do better if they stay in their home environment and avoid the hospital whenever they can.

But the doctor can’t be at the facility 24/7, and for years that meant automatic hospital trips for patients that needed to be seen.

The Village at Summerville started using telehealth equipment to address this concern, connecting the nursing staff with doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina to consult with patients in their rooms, and possibly prevent unnecessary hospital visits.

Dr. Blackwelder says it’s a great asset for his facility, but experts say it’s rare among nursing homes across the country. Broadband access, substantial electronic medical records systems, and proper training are necessary for telehealth to work in nursing homes. According to Steve Chies, the chair of the Health Information Technology Committee for the American Health Care Association, many rural parts of the United States don’t have that already in place.

Story by: John Lewis

Photo Caption: Eleanor Grayson is examined with a telehealth machine in her home at The Village at Summerville.

Photo Credit: Tabitha Safdi