ParentCare » Vol. 17

ParentCare – A Section for Today’s Caregiver

Educating Seniors: Bring Your Health… Home

By Kimberly Harmon RN, BSN

Telehealth and You: Mobile Technologies Ensure Continuation of Care

As you know, I’m committed to making sure that consumers in our community have access to the best possible care when and where they need it. That’s why I’m increasingly interested in telehealth, a holistic approach to healthcare that encompasses preventative, promotive, and curative aspects. What you may not know is that the Auburn Visiting Nurse Association offers telehealth services cost-free to current patients and privately to anyone.

Why should you be interested in telehealth? Well, first it’s important to understand what telehealth is, and how it can complement your overall health plan.

Basically, telehealth is a means for providing quality health care in a cost efficient manner in many settings, particularly home health services administered by nurses. Whether it’s as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone or as sophisticated as using videoconferencing between providers at facilities in two countries, telehealth is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies.

According to several recent industry studies, interest in and use of telehealth solutions is increasing in the U.S. and throughout the world. A report by independent market analyst Data Monitor claims that an aging population and a shortage of healthcare providers are leading drivers of telehealth adoption.

While some of you may already use telemedicine, which more narrowly focuses on the curative aspect of healthcare, telehealth is health and education services delivered to patients in their homes in part by telecommunication devices like the telephone and telecommunication-ready healthcare monitors like a blood pressure cuff. Telehealth taps many technologies to complement the “doctor visit” model with which most of you are familiar.

Telehealth is ideal for monitoring patients with CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), diabetes and other complex diagnoses.

With telehealth, more remote (rather than in-person) contact with patients is possible, complementing conventional care. Through telehealth and the increased opportunities for communications that it affords, health professionals can assess patients’ status and change and reiterate parts of their care plan routines as frequently as necessary.

So I’m not surprised that a 2009 study by ABI Research (“Wireless Telehealth”) predicts that approximately 15 million wireless telehealth systems will be deployed by early 2012. Remote patient management, personal emergency response systems, ambient assisted living, and mobile personal monitoring technologies were ranked among the most popular systems to be implemented, particularly in aid of home health treatment.

Beyond the comfort and convenience of telehealth, both patients and healthcare providers benefit from the increased contact telehealth allows. As we navigate uncharted territory in healthcare, changes in the financing of conventional home care are significantly affecting home care “business as usual.” Challenged by fewer (affordable) visits, fewer nursing staff, and increasing and often costly legions of elderly home care patients, nurses and patients alike can benefit from focused and frequent telehealth contact.

Through this contact, health care providers receive daily information on the patient and can provide timely intervention when needed.

Here are just a few more of the benefits of telehealth:

Early intervention capabilities

Reduced Emergency Room visits

Reduced hospital re-admissions

Enhanced disease management

Improved quality of life

Enhanced patient compliance

Reduced frequency of office visits and telephone calls

Increased communications between health care providers and patients ~ and peace of mind for patients

Call the Auburn VNA at 508-791-0081 to learn more about telehealth and how it can improve your care and outcomes.

Remember, the essence of home health care is to provide individuals, families and loved ones with services that promote maximum comfort and independence in the home.

Kimberly Harmon is the CEO of the Auburn Visiting Nurse Association. She may be reached at kharmon@auburnvna.org or 508-791-0081, and welcomes any questions, comments or concerns about any specific health issues you have.

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