Alexian Brothers Home Health uses a high-tech wellness monitoring system that allows nurses, physicians and family members to keep tabs on the physical condition of at home patients from a distance, potentially avoiding medical emergencies. The adoption of the Philips Telmonitoring System reflects Alexian Brothers Home Health's move toward "telethinking" and "telehealth."
Telethinking combines high-tech equipment with excellent nursing assessments to promote patient wellness, self-management and quality nursing care. Telehealth involves patients taking their own vital signs at home while nurses, doctors and family members monitor from other locations. Telethinking and telehealth have helped to decrease in-patient length of stay and hospitalizations, resulting in lower medical costs and more stable patients, says Linda Romano, Manager of Clinical Operations at Alexian Brothers Home Health.
"We keep approximately 100 home-care patients on the telehealth system," she says. "It helps these patients avoid using the emergency room as an office visit, and ultimately prevents rehospitalization."
The telemonitoring system is based on advanced, wireless and Internet technologies that are integrated seamlessly into blood pressure monitors, weight scales, glucose monitors, pulse oximeters and other health monitoring devices. The system provides a wireless connection between the monitoring device and a hub, or transceiver, in the home. All the patient has to do is take their reading, and it is relayed automatically to the hub. The hub transmits vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, weight, glucose levels or pulse oximetry readings, via phone or personal computer to the Philips Internet server, where the data is added to the patient's medical record. Using a Web browser, Alexian Brothers Home Health clinicians, family members, and physicians can remotely track patient's vital signs, graph the results, monitor trends, set alert criteria, and receive alerts on abnormal vital signs.
The system can help health-care providers to identify potential problems sooner and to take quick action if a patient's data indicates an adverse event is occurring or is looming. As a result, a patient may be able to avoid an emergency room visit and/or hospital stay, along with related costs. The system also can help nurses, physicians and caregivers improve the effectiveness of medications, because monitoring data can indicate whether patients are taking medications as prescribed. The Carematix system is particularly useful for patients with heart failure and other chronic illnesses. With Americans living longer, the number of people with chronic medical conditions has risen significantly.
Nearly 80% of Medicare beneficiaries today have at least one chronic disease. The system's wireless capabilities make it easy and convenient to use. At home patients do not have to plug and unplug various devices and are free to take measurements anywhere. For example, patients can keep their weight scale in the bathroom and their blood-pressure monitor in the bedroom. Mrs Margaret Herrler is a 102- year-old heart-failure patient who has benefited from Alexian Brothers Home Health's use of telemonitoring. Her daughter, Peggy Reinhardt, says the system brings her considerable peace of mind. She believes the combination of daily monitoring by an office-based telehealth nurse and a weekly visit by a home health nurse has increased her mother's chances of reaching her 103rd birthday in September.
Alexian Brothers Home Health began using telemonitoring in 2001. This service is offered free of charge to appropriate Medicare patients who are on service with the agency. Not only does telemonitoring help to prevent rehospitalization, but it also helps clients to learn more about their disease process and manage their health more effectively at home. This allows for more independence for the client, and family members can worry less about their loved one, as they are more prepared to deal with their health issues.
The telemonitoring services that Alexian Brothers Home Health offers are a true disease management model, in that the client is asked health related questions each time they use the telemonitoring equipment. This allows for earlier intervention, perhaps even before their weight or blood pressure reaches a level that would indicate a problem. In addition, educational material is provided through the equipment that can ease the clients concerns and help them manage their health with fewer exacerbations of the disease.
Links for telemonitoring stories