It may be the next best thing to being there. As more health care systems are experimenting with remote medicine, Lee Memorial Health System is being praised for its telehealth effort.
“Basically I think the significant thing is, it lets us know what we have done to keep people out of the hospital,” says Cathy Brady, clinical manager with Lee Memorial Health System.
In particular when it comes to congestive heart failure. A growing problem in the U.S., it often leads to a revolving door of patient hospital stays.
“Readmission for heart failure nationally runs 25 to 30% within 30 days. Quite often we can identify reasons for readmissions such as inability or unwillingness to fill prescriptions, dietary issues or habits, eating large amount of food that could be high in sodium. Or alcohol consumption could be a problem,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood as it should. It affects nearly 6 million Americans and is the leading cause of hospitalization in people over 65. But studies show close monitoring is keeping heart patients home.
“There are so many things that are avoidable that people are going into the hospital for,” says Brady.
Used for home health patients, remote monitoring boxes connect to telehealth. Patients conduct tests each day: stepping on a scale, checking blood pressure along with heart rate and oxygen levels. Results are reviewed by a nurse.
“We get so attached to some of these folks - you really do - because you talk to them frequently; if they’re having problems and you’re looking at them every single day. So we can keep an eye on them, if there’s a problem we can catch it early,” says Brady.
If a reading is off, the nurse will call the patient and has the option of scheduling a visit. The program yielded dramatic results and was presented as a model at a national conference.
As of March readmission rates were down to 8%, well below the national average. Meaning more people are happy and healthy in their own home.