Thanks to new technology available through TLC Health Network's Long Term Home Health Care Program, patients utilizing telehealth services can have some of the benefits of nursing care at the touch of a button.
"Having this technology for our patients is a wonderful new addition to our services," explained Sue Taber, BSN, Vice President, Long Term Home Health Care. "It can give patients greater peace of mind, fewer hospitalizations, and more participation in their own care."
The facility recently purchased 100 telehealth units. Grant funds earmarked for equipment purchases were used to acquire the units through Advantage Home Telehealth.
Sue Taber, BSN, Vice President, Long Term Home Health Care for TLC Health Network (right), demonstrates the latest features of telehealth services with Laurie Mead, RN, Long Term Home Health Care Clinical Manager.
According to Taber, telehealth service puts technology in the home which allows patients the ability to monitor themselves at prescribed times, with results that get sent immediately to medical professionals. The service is physician-ordered and is most appropriate for those with diagnoses including congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension, and diabetes.
Each unit is pre-programmed for an individual patient's parameters such as blood pressure, blood-oxygen levels, pulse rate, weight, and blood sugar levels. The number of times that a patient uses the unit per day varies depending on his or her individual need. Each time a reading is taken, the results are transmitted to the home care agency and, if outside certain parameters, to the physician office.
"The benefit is that we'll be able to capture the first-hand knowledge of the patients' vital signs at home to provide disease management even faster," Ms. Taber said. "It provides continuous communication between the doctor, nurse and the patient."
As an example, the agency official describes the patient who reports a three to five pound weight gain over a period of a week.
"Because this can be an early sign of congestive heart failure, it's important to catch it quickly. That's why it's so essential to have the telehealth system as a screening tool," she explained.
Once a problem is identified, health officials can undertake a range of actions including making adjustments to medications and/or scheduling the patient for medical tests, home nursing visits or physician office appointments.
"This technology keeps us in day-to-day touch with our patients - sometimes before symptoms turn into more serious issues," she explained.
The equipment itself, Taber said, is easy to use and space-saving. "The Smartphone monitoring device is the size of a cell phone."
Patients do not need a telephone landline to use the service. This state-of-the-art device sits comfortably on a flat surface and includes an easy-to-read screen with the daily weather. The unit reports the results aloud to the patient. The equipment also comes with a blood pressure cuff and scale that can hold up to 450 pounds. Patients, caregivers and/or family members are provided training and receive easy-to-follow Quick Reference Guides along with a 24-hour phone number to call with any questions they may have.
TLC Health Network officials say that unit installation is under way in eligible clients' homes in Chautauqua County. To be eligible, patients with an appropriate diagnosis are screened by the home health case manager who obtains a physician order for the telehealth service. Plans are also under way to expand the service to Cattaraugus County, pending approval from the state. Officials say they plan a patient satisfaction survey after six months of patient use as part of the organization's quality improvement program to assess how patients feel the program is working.
TLC Health Network's Long Term Home Health Care is a Certified Long Term Home Health Care Agency, established in 1988, serving all of Chautauqua and southern Erie County. The department is affiliated with Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York. It offers alternatives to nursing home placement. For more information, call 951-7167.