Telemedicine reducing return hospital visits
PORT RICHMOND - April 20, 2012 (WPVI) -- Medical technology called telemedicine or telemonitoring is helping to keep more people with chronic conditions out of the hospital. The technology has been around for a little while, but it is now getting a lot more use.
The health care reform law says starting in October hospitals will get penalized for some patients who are re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days of leaving.
That is where telemedicine can help. A local man and his nurse showed us how it works. Two days a week, registered nurse Gary Goodman visits 80-year-old Donald Brown of Port Richmond.
Gary checks his patient's vital signs and makes sure his heart condition is stable. But even on the days Gary isn't there, nurses are still monitoring Mr. Brown.
Every morning he takes his own heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure and weight. He writes the results in his book, and they are also automatically sent through the telephone line to Mercy Home Health.
"This allows us to get a daily snapshot on how patients are doing," said David Dolt, R.N.
Dolt, who coordinates the Mercy telehealth program, says it allows nurses to act quicker if there are problems.
"If he goes off his parameters set by the medical team, I get a call," said Gary Goodman. "That's the first thing."
Then Gary can treat little problems before they become big problems and keep Mr. Brown out of the hospital.
In fact, the average hospital re-admission rate for Mercy Home Health patients using the telehealth system is 11 percent. The national average for other home health patients is 27-percent.
"You've got this great blend between technology, nursing and the doctor," said Dolt. "You put them together and you have the ability to keep people out of the hospital."
That saves money and gives patients more freedom, jst the way Mr. Brown likes it.
"At the hospital they boss you around: 'Sit down, move there,'" he said. "At home I am my own boss."
There are other home health agencies that use similar technology. Telemedicine is growing in popularity and is being used more to monitor people with heart conditions and breathing problems.
It also helps keep patients on the right track. Mr. Brown says he is living healthier now that he knows someone is watching every day. He's actually lost 20 pounds in the past few months, and that's a good thing.
hospitals, healthcheck, ali gorman, r.n.
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