NEWPORT NEWS — When a disembodied voice in his
Ronald, a 73-year-old retiree from Newport News shipyard, has a weakened heart. He's had an aortic valve replacement and doctors installed a pacemaker last fall. He was hospitalized for weeks in December for fluid build-up in his right lung.
"It was a touchy situation," said Carol, as Ron followed recorded instructions to step on the scale.
Now, each day at 9 a.m., including weekends, Ron's data — weight, heart rate, oxygen saturation level and
Such remote monitoring, known as telehealth, has taken on increased significance since October, when the
The Dartmouth Atlas Project reported this week that nationwide the numbers barely shifted between 2006 and 2010. Peninsula health systems, however, have brought readmissions to a post-surgical low of between 8 and 11 percent and post-medical to between 13 and 15 percent.
By keeping daily tabs on patients, not only to check on their well-being but also to ensure that they comply with medication and diet instructions, remote monitoring has proven effective as one strategy in reducing unnecessary hospitalizations. It also provides patients with a sense of security. "Most patients love it. They like the novelty of knowing someone is watching them," said Vickie Morgan, director of clinical operations for Riverside Home Health department.
A pilot study by
Bon Secours started offering telehealth seven years ago as part of an array of home health services for patients post-hospitalization. The duo of Dunn and Davis-Boone takes turns going out to set up the equipment for patients — a small black box that transmits the data either wirelessly or through the phone lines. It allows them to monitor between 85 and 110 patients daily, from Williamsburg to the oceanfront, along with more in Richmond. They look for any significant changes, such as more than a 2-pound weight gain, indicative of fluid build-up. If anything's out of the ordinary, they call the patient to re-do the measurement; if it's still out of whack, they'll call the doctor.
When Day's oxygen level came up at 84, well below the acceptable 90 to 100 range, Carol said confidently, "I expect Anita will call and have us re-do it." A glitch in the automated system often provides false low readings, which can be corrected by a manual override, she explained. "I think it's fantastic. You can't go to the doctor every day. And then there's the transportation, not everyone has it," Carol added. The whole process, including a follow-up phone call, takes just a few minutes.
Newport News resident Frances Capps, 84, who has been home-monitored for more than a month after multiple
In conclusion the machine reminded him to take his meds — an array of five prescriptions, down from 13 — and to eat a