Telehealth and Wellness Program: Improving Health and Wellness Utilizing Communications Technology

At The Cedars, we learned early on that changes in the way healthcare is delivered during this pandemic needed to be immediately adopted to protect our staff and those we care for.

Having closed our community to non-essential healthcare providers and limiting physician appointments to those deemed a medical necessity, The Cedars needed to find ways to continue to provide ongoing medical care and connection to outside care providers.  In our efforts to reinvent our healthcare services, telehealth emerged as one of the major tools to deliver clinical services via telecommunications technology.

Through our Telehealth Program, staff are able to easily coordinate medical care for patients and residents with primary care and specialty physicians, clinics and services.  Additionally, telehealth has been utilized for interdisciplinary team meetings. This program has assisted in maintaining continuity of healthcare to patients and residents, avoiding additional negative consequences from delayed preventive, chronic and routine care.

Our patients and residents have been very receptive to using telehealth technology, and our nurses love the fact that they are more involved in the patient/resident visits. Rather than having a patient or resident return from an appointment with a brief, written report, The Cedars nursing staff can interact, share concerns and collaborate with care partners. This has improved our ability to provide individualized, person-centered care.

The Cedars has collaborated with University of Southern Maine to expand our Telehealth and Wellness Program to include college credit programs.  Our residents serve as elder teachers and meet with undergraduate students learning to establish professional relationships in the area of mental health counseling.  College students meet weekly with their elder teachers throughout the semester. In the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, a student is conducting a storytelling program with several residents who have a diagnosis of dementia, while studying the effects of regular reading sessions on a resident’s mood and level of engagement.

For the winter semester, The Cedars has adapted a narrative medicine course entitled, Story as Medicine with Elders.  This 3-credit college honors program introduces students to the art of narrative medicine through partnering with our residents.  This semester-long course ends with the publication of an anthology created by students and residents.  These programs are becoming a reality and provide intergenerational social engagement opportunities for our residents.

Our Telehealth Program is now part of our overall emergency preparedness plan. Keeping our residents healthy and connected to the community has been a major goal of this program We anticipate that this pandemic will continue to effect operations well into the future, and our Telehealth and Wellness Program will continue to have a positive long-term impact on our organization.

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