Technology Helps Patients Manage Chronic Conditions at Home
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the emphasis on healthcare in the U.S. has shifted towards the importance of preventive care as a way of improving the health of the population and avoiding costly hospitalizations. Now, Phelps Memorial Hospital Center has taken an important step to achieve this objective by launching a “telehealth” program that extends the continuum of care into the homes of patients who need support managing chronic conditions or are at risk for repeated hospitalizations.
Phelps is the only hospital in Westchester to offer this service, in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Hudson Valley.
Studies show that up to 20 percent of hospital inpatients are re-admitted within 30 days of discharge due to exacerbations of congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes. The purpose of the telehealth program is to prevent avoidable re-hospitalizations and support a patient’s ability to age-in-place safely, responsibly and independently.
Using equipment installed in a patient’s home, biometric assessments (including blood pressure, pulse oximetry and weight) are captured and wirelessly transmitted to the telehealth department at the VNA, where these vital signs are reviewed and changes in the patient’s health status are noted. If an abnormal result is found, a telehealth nurse contacts the patient to determine the cause and follows up with the patient’s primary care provider, if necessary. If the nurse discovers that the patient has not been taking medication as prescribed, for example, or is eating foods that are prohibited due to a medical condition, patient education on these topics can take place instantly.
Karen Giordano of Elmsford has high blood pressure and finds the telehealth system easy to use. “I would highly recommend it to other people. By looking at my numbers (vital signs) every day, it keeps me aware of my health and I become an active participant in my own health.” Every week Ms. Giordano checks in via a “video chat” with telehealth nurse Anne Cusack, RN, BSN. “Anne also calls me immediately if one of my numbers is not what it is supposed to be,” says Ms. Giordano. “I don’t get out much, so I love chatting on the video chat.”
“Telehealth helps patients self-manage their chronic or newly diagnosed conditions, and gives them extra clinical support so they can be more independent,” says Judith Sapione, RN, clinical quality manager for Phelps Medical Associates, the hospital’s primary and specialty care medical group, who is overseeing the program. “Patients really feel like they’re in control of their health. Especially for those who are very frail, or have multiple chronic conditions, it’s a real support and comfort knowing that they’re being monitored so closely.”
According to Sapione, with the early intervention made possible by telehealth, a patient knows when his condition warrants a visit to his physician, and he is less likely to wait until he becomes so ill that he needs to go to the emergency room. “We’ve already experienced the benefits of this program. Several of our patients required intervention and their care was managed in a timely way, achieving a better outcome as a result,” says Sapione.
Participants in the six-month pilot program are patients of Phelps Medical Associates physicians. Telehealth services are being offered free of charge to participants, thanks to a generous donation from the William Olson Memorial Fund.
Here is information about another program offered by Phelps Memorial Hospital:
Learn what diabetes is, how to prevent and manage complications, what normal blood sugar values are, what foods to eat and much more at this informative series of two classes offered by the Phelps Diabetes Education Center, in partnership with the American Diabetes Association. The classes are free of charge.
Because the classes are designed to complement each other, it is highly recommended to attend both of them in the same month in order to get the maximum benefit. The classes are offered on Thursday, May 21 and 28 from 11 am – 1 pm; and Thursday, June 18 and 25 from 11 am – 1 pm.
All classes are held on the Phelps Memorial Hospital Center campus in the Medical Services Building, 755 North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow. Pre-registration and physician referral are required. For more information and to register, call the Phelps Diabetes Education Center at 914-366-2270.