Connected to Care: The Telehealth Revolution (Sponsored)
“Good morning, Joe. I noticed from your telehealth readings that your blood pressure is up a bit. Please retake it later this morning. If it continues to be high, I’ll schedule a nursing visit to determine if your medication should be adjusted.”
“Hello Rose. I’m glad to see that your weight is down now that your doctor has increased your Lasix. Please be sure to check it again tomorrow.”
“Hi Mary. How did your doctor’s appointment go yesterday? Do you have any questions about the new medication? Be sure to check your blood pressure and weight this morning so I can track any changes.”
These may seem like typical conversations between nurse and patients, and they are, except that the nurse and patient have never met face-to-face. The patients are at home, miles away from the Home Health VNA nurse who is monitoring their well-being remotely using telehealth telecommunications technology.
Telehealth, a component of Home Health VNA’s complex care management program, is a highly innovative method used to monitor, assess and communicate remotely with patients. It is recognized as one of the most effective technologies of the decade.
The telehealth system has two main components.
The first is the home monitoring unit. Patients use these to measure their weight, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and temperature.
The second is the central monitoring station at Home Health VNA’s Lawrence office. Each day, at designated times, patients use the devices attached to the monitoring unit to collect their vital sign data. Then, the unit automatically sends that data to a central monitoring station via digital connection where a telehealth nurse reviews and analyzes it.
If the vital sign data is outside predetermined limits, a color-coded alert will notify the telehealth nurse who will contact the patient to assess the situation. If indicated, the telehealth nurse will send a nurse to the patient’s home for further evaluation.
While using home telehealth, patients continue to receive regular skilled nursing and rehabilitation visits, but their status is closely monitored as Home Health VNA’s nurses maintain consistent contact with them for proactive care.
Telehealth is proven to promote patients’ engagement in their treatment, to increase their ability to understand and manage their condition, and to support caregivers who are helping them manage at home. It is especially beneficial for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or congestive heart failure (CHF). Such patients often have unstable vital signs and symptoms, putting them at risk for hospitalization.
At age 91, Mary Sweeney, a lifelong Lowell native and former teacher, has been battling CHF for more than 10 years and has been hospitalized more times than she can remember. However, since she was admitted to the complex care management program and began daily telehealth monitoring more than a year ago, she has not been hospitalized due to CHF complications.
“One of the symptoms of CHF is fluid retention,” says Linda Harder, a Home Health VNA complex care program telehealth specialist. “Excess fluid leads to symptoms that might include shortness of breath, cough, weakness and weight gain. When symptoms become severe, patients often end up in the hospital. Using telehealth, I remotely monitor Mary’s weight and other vital signs on a daily basis. If her weight increases, I’ll notify her doctor and suggest changes to her medication so she can eliminate the excess fluid. I also call her regularly to teach her about CHF and help her with her diet to reduce salt intake. Using telehealth, I can better control Mary’s CHF, keeping her comfortable at home and out of the hospital.”
On a typical day, Harder can monitor the care of up to 70 patients who have a variety of chronic conditions. She has daily communications with many of them, including Mary Sweeney.
“She’s like family,” said Sweeney. She keeps me at home and out of the hospital — where I want to be.”
The services of Home Health VNA, Merrimack Valley Hospice and HomeCare Inc. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information or to request a brochure, call (978) 552-4186.