INDUSTRY
February 2, 2018

Amazon and Telenursing – a Match Made in Healthcare Heaven?

By Mariam Yazdi, BSN, RN

For a brief moment of time, Amazon released a job posting for a “new initiative,” looking for a “HIPAA Compliance Lead” - someone to create, organize, and head a compliance program for the company.

And not just anyone – but someone with at least 5 or more years of HIPAA, FDA, and 510(k) experience. 

The post has since been removed and Amazon has not made any public statements on what this “new initiative” is, or why they need someone with this expertise on their team.

Some speculate that Amazon may be chipping away at the healthcare space by way of Alexa, the company’s smart speaker personal assistant. Amazon may have a vision of inserting Alexa into the day-to-day patient care setting – recording notes, recalling labs, etc – but is the technology smart enough to know how to protect patient health information? Enter HIPAA Compliance Lead new hire!

One thing is for sure – it is no secret that Amazon is interested in the healthcare space. It is a multibillion-dollar industry that could quickly become disrupted by the convenience and accessibility Amazon has and continues to establish. Can you envision an Amazon Prime pharmacy experience? What about the intricacies of the secret 1492 project? This is reportedly a team of people who have been working on healthcare technology: everything from electronic health records, to healthcare apps, to telemedicine. 

Speaking of telemedicine, according to GeekWire, Amazon may very well be brainstorming a telemedicine network. The company was reportedly reaching out to nurses and doctors, recruiting them for an initiative that they have not spoken publicly about. Amazon in the telemedicine arena could have big implications for the nursing field as it is already one of the fastest growing sectors of nursing today. 

Telemedicine is not a new thing to the world. In fact, there are thousands of nurses that have entered the telenursing world, putting their experience to work in a creatively different way. If you’re wondering what telenursing is (different from Telemetry) read on! 

What is Telenursing?

Telenursing is the coupling of nursing skills with technology, ranging from duties like telephone triage to webcam assessments. It provides a way to overcome distance barriers, provide care to rural areas, and also make emergency care instant. It has helped reduce hospital readmissions and gives patients in remote areas efficient access to care from their home. 

What Kind of Care do Telenurses Provide?

Telenurses rely almost 100% on communication skills. They will assess symptoms over the phone and direct patients to the ER, clinic, or primary care provider based on how they feel.

Telenurses will also assess wounds, medical equipment, or any other physical or mental presentation via webcam or phone calls, determining a plan of action without patients needing to leave their homes. They can give information on medication administration, disease management, or insurance policies.  

What makes this type of role unique?

When you are speaking on the phone or chatting via FaceTime or Skype, your sense of touch and smell are instantly removed (you all know we use these more than we’d like).

Although sight and verbal communication are now dominant, they can be greatly hindered by many factors: poor connection, poor iterations, and communication breakdown. Previous hands-on experience helps fill in the gaps and is imperative to this nursing sector. 

What are the pros and cons of Telenursing?

Depending on where you stand on this argument, a pro/con is the schedule. Although you can work around the clock with telenursing, most jobs are structured as eight-hour days, five days a week.

This is typically an office setting or your home, which means much less activity than at the bedside – but also not all day on your feet. Although some positions may allow you to use a cellular phone for the job, others require a landline for reliability and call quality. 

Who hires nurses for Telenursing jobs?

You will find telehealth nurses working in doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, prisons, call centers, and at home. They can work for large hospital systems like Kaiser, or independent telehealth companies that only provide this service. They can work exclusively by phone calls, or have a bag full of devices to help instruct with injection training techniques, for example. 

What is the salary for Telenursing jobs? 

Salary varies depending on what system you work for as a telehealth nurse. Some of the larger hospital systems that employ telehealth nurses view the position as lateral transfer from patient care, therefore their pay is unchanged. See here for a 2018 average salary for telephone triage nurses. 

What are the qualifications for telehealth nurse?

Most facilities hiring telehealth nurses require a degree in nursing, and some amount of bedside experience (this position asks for at least 3 years.) Good communication skills, managing people on the phone, and learning new computer systems are also strong points for applicants.  

What is the job like?  

Nurses have reported getting 6 months of orientation to their telehealth specialty. Many of these jobs are structured by algorithms, which help guide the nurse in covering all necessary bases when dealing with patients over the phone. Some facilities will monitor phone calls and give feedback as to how nurses are communicating. Some jobs provide scripts to follow and others are more guided ad lib.

Can it be done as contract work?

Most telehealth jobs will require a minimum amount of interrupted hours for nurses to work. Some facilities may have PRN positions available, but most are full-time positions with FTE benefits.  

Considering where technology is headed, telemedcine and telenursing may be the future of healthcare, and nurses will have a large role in making it possible!  

Next Up: How To Make The Most Money As A Travel Nurse: 10 Tips For Higher Pay

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