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According to the Health Resources Services Administration, telehealth is the use of telecommunications technologies to provide clinical and non-clinical services. This includes a wide range of health services provided through videoconferencing, streaming media, online messaging, and other means of electronic communication.
From remote clinical care and patient education to administrative meetings, training, continuing medical education, and more, telehealth is digitizing the entire healthcare landscape. And this includes improvements in the field of continence care.
Digitized Continence and Long-Term Care
In 2019, a behavior-based online telehealth initiative called MyHealtheBladder was proven to be effective for managing incontinence. Through the course of 8 weeks, the platform was used to administer a remote treatment program to 29 female veterans with moderate symptoms. The program included pelvic floor muscle exercises, fluid management, risk factor reduction, bladder control strategies, and self-monitoring. After 8 weeks, participants showed significant improvements. Indeed, a recent study by the University of California confirms that pelvic floor focused-exercise can decrease stress-induced incontinence in women. And through telehealth, these exercises and other interventions can be more conveniently accessible.
This is particularly crucial for patients with incontinence. Apart from concerns about new infections, a study in the Journal of the American Medicare Directors Association observed a 4% increase in incidents of incontinence in nursing homes. This is alongside a 6% increase in depressive symptoms and unplanned substantial weight loss – both of which can also contribute to incontinence.
Thankfully, telehealth applications have become more common in long-term care and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Much of this is thanks to the federal government’s decision to cover Medicare beneficiaries' access to telehealth. Since then, online care platforms from providers like Telehealth Solutions and Adviise have become increasingly present and in-demand across SNFs in the U.S.
This bodes well not just for long-term patients in SNFs, but for any patients with incontinence. By minimizing or eliminating the need to travel physically to obtain or administer care, these platforms are easing the burden on patients and health workers alike. Furthermore, as digitization streamlines the exchange of medical information, there’s bound to be an improvement in another key aspect of telehealth: continuing medical education.
Continuing Continence Care and Urology Education
In the U.S., urinary incontinence is a common and severely under-treated issue. Much of this is due to how registered nurses (RNs) – the backbone of continence care – are severely overworked. It also doesn’t help that most nurses aren’t trained to prioritize incontinence. According to a cooperative report by the University of North Texas, Healthcare Management Systems, and Debakey Heart and Vascular Center, fixing this systemic problem entails collaborative nursing efforts across medical disciplines.
In the report, experts explain that comprehensive continence care can only be improved through the multidisciplinary collaboration of nurse continence advisors, geriatricians, pelvic floor physiotherapists, and other health professionals. The report also details that advanced practice nurses are in a unique position to lead the way in training and unifying these multidisciplinary teams.
Telehealth interventions can be very helpful in enabling these much-needed collaborations. Through digital medical databases, collating past and present data on incontinence can be easier. Meanwhile, streamlined communication platforms can quickly bridge information gaps in any collaborative research efforts. In short, telehealth can pave the way for experts to work together on improving continence care training. In fact, the use of telehealth technologies for remote and collaborative healthcare training is nothing new.
This can be observed in the rising popularity of highly technical online degree programs, which today are allowing thousands of RNs to pursue in-demand specializations remotely. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the online RN to BSN degree at Maryville University is providing RNs with a remote path for pursuing geriatric, urology, long-term, critical, public health, and other nursing specializations. Designed through insights from healthcare employers, the course is aimed at training RNs to complete a public health capstone project with other nurse specialists-in-training. The program is producing a generation of nursing directors, supervisors, and managers with intensive training in remote and collaborative research work. And this generation will be crucial to the development of any future multidisciplinary and telehealth-driven strategies for improving continence care.
From streamlining operations in healthcare settings to shaping the way health workers are trained, telehealth is helping patients with incontinence in different ways. And as these technologies continue to grow, telehealth is bound to improve continence care and training even further.
Article written by Rose Jeanne
For the special use of expressmed.com