Telehealth Successes in Patient Health Management

The country’s aging population is living longer with chronic conditions, thus straining a healthcare system facing nurse and physician shortages. Many home care providers and health plans are turning to home electronic monitoring to achieve better patient outcomes.

“Telehealth benefits long-term patients,” said Kathy McCarthy, RN, Director of Patient Services at South Shore Home Health in Oakdale, N.Y. “It’s an excellent teaching tool for making patients more self-aware.”

Patients can see the cause and effect, such as the relationship between salt and different foods and their blood pressure, or for diabetics, how the food they consume affects their blood sugar, she explained.

“It ties into quality care for the patients,” added Kendra Case, RN, MBA, vice president of disease management at home healthcare provider Amedisys of Baton Rouge, La. “It helps them learn to self-manage their condition based on the choices they make.”

Electronic home monitoring equipment, such as those from Viterion TeleHealthcare or Cardiocom, allows nurses to check on their patients’ weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and oxygen saturation without leaving the office. Typically, the biometric information flows from the device over the telephone lines to a Web-based portal that contains the data, although wireless devices are entering the market. The nurse then intervenes appropriately.

The Intel Health Guide, a second-generation unit, feeds the data into a decision-support tool that helps nurses spot trends and offers clinician videoconferencing and multimedia patient-education opportunities. The system is customizable to set risk thresholds. It also provides reminders, such as telling patients when to take their medications.

“It’s interactive and more comprehensive,” said Julie Cherry, RN, MSN, PHN, director of professional services for Intel Digital Health Group in Santa Clara, Calif.

South Shore Home Health Services offers patients two different home monitoring options. It initially began installing Viterion TeleHealthcare units in patients’ homes more than five years ago as part of a New York State Department of Health telemedicine grant.

“Patients like it and feel it has made a difference,” McCarthy said.

The agency has since added the Health Anywhere program, in which a home health aide visits patients with a Blackberry smartphone and blue-tooth enabled blood pressure, weight scale and pulse oximetry unit. The device immediately sends the information, transmitting it in real time back to the office.

“Some patients were noncompliant or had difficulty taking their own blood pressure, so the Health Anywhere works better for them, and they like the visit,” McCarthy said.

Across the country, Amedisys has deployed 2,500 Cardiocom devices into the homes of patients at high risk of hospitalization, Case said. The system allows the nurses to ask about how the patients feel in addition to transmitting the biometric data.

“We’re expanding our program this year,” Case said. “We feel it’s been effective.”

Excerpt taken from an article posted on AMN Healthcare‘s website;
written by Debra Wood, RN, contributor; September 16, 2010

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