Telehealth monitoring can provide your doctor with a daily snapshot of your condition as you recover from a hospital stay or learn to regulate a chronic condition at home.
An enhancement offered by some home care services, telehealth monitoring helps you be independent while allowing your doctor to detect subtle health changes that could indicate the need for modifications to your medications, diet or activities to prevent rehospitalization or a trip to the emergency room.
The interactive monitoring mainly is for patients with congestive heart failure and pulmonary disease. It also may be used for individuals with heart disease or to monitor expectant moms who are experiencing high blood pressure.
Equipment for telehealth monitoring includes a telephone or satellite connection; the monitor, which is about the size of an adding machine; and a scale. Before setting up the system in your home, a home care nurse evaluates you and your environment to assure that it can be used safely and successfully. Your commitment to participating in the daily monitoring is essential.
Typically, the system is set to do one daily monitoring session, but it can do more.
A friendly voice prompts you to begin an assessment. The monitor checks and records your vital signs, blood pressure, pulse, weight and blood/oxygen levels. Next it asks a series of questions based on your condition. Your answer to each question determines future questions.
The assessment takes about five minutes. When complete, the data is transmitted to a web-based system that is monitored by a nurse seven days a week, including holidays.
The nurse reviews the data and pays special attention to alerts, which automatically are posted next to patients who have vital signs or a weight that is outside of set parameters.
In many cases, the nurse will call those patients to follow-up and ask questions. Sometimes there's a simple explanation such as, "I ran to answer the phone just before doing the readings."
In other cases, the patient is experiencing symptoms that indicate he should go to the emergency room or be seen by his doctor.
Telemonitor use is not limited to the scheduled assessment. Patients who are not feeling quite right at any time of day or night may use the monitor to confirm their vital signs and weight are on track. The monitoring system also can receive alerts and reminders from the home care service provider for special situations such as when a severe storm is expected. The prompt even can remind a patient to take his medication and send confirmation when he does.
The home telemonitor gives patients peace of mind that they are progressing well when outside the hospital, reminds them to comply with physician orders and helps build confidence in their ability to maintain their good health. Patients also receive weekly home visits as part of their care. The telemonitoring service typically ends a week before all home care services end so that the nurse is available to help the patient with the transition.
If you will be receiving home care for a chronic health condition and would like the extra confidence that comes from home telemonitoring, ask for a referral to a home care service that provides that enhancement to traditional care.
Harris is the clinical manager at Susquehanna Health Home Care & Hospice and has worked with the telehealth system for eight years.