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Telehealth: May 15, 2012

Seven mornings a week, Janet Rutledge goes through a series of medical tests without ever leaving home.

She is one of a growing number of people using remote technology to interface with medical professionals miles away. It’s called Telehealth and Janet uses it to monitor congestive heart failure.

“I have all the equipment here and every morning at 8 o’clock the little voice welcomes me ‘good morning it’s time to take your stance’.”

“We supply the patients with scales, blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter and it comes with a monitor and we take that into their home and then we explain to them the benefits of using the equipment,” says Cathy Brady, clinical manager of Telehealth.

Cathy oversees the program for Lee Memorial Health System.

“We look at the blood pressure, we look at pulse oximetry which means how much oxygen they have in their blood. We look at weight. If someone is a diabetic we can monitor their glucose.”

Every test result is instantly transmitted for review by a team of Telehealth nurses.

“If there’s abnormality we look at those abnormalities and that’s when we determine the action that we need to take. It may be as simple as calling the patient,” says Brady.

Experts believe Telehealth will play a major role in improving delivery of care to an increasingly ill and aging population. It helps people stay in their homes and in-touch with their medical conditions.

The rate of re-hospitalization nationwide is 26% compared to 12% in the local Telehealth program. Janet credits her virtual setup with helping keep her happy, healthy and comfortably at home.

“I feel great now, compared to what I have in the past. I’m getting out and doing more.”