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Long Distance Caregiving

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Telehealth Moves from the Doctor's Office
to the Home
By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Some people feel that the best way to gather information is through video relay in a person’s home. Cameras can be installed at various points throughout the home in order to determine whether or not a patient is able to care for himself, if he is taking medication correctly, or if he is eating and performing other activities of daily living. A downside to video monitoring is that someone has to take time to review the stored video, a time-consuming effort that may not be practical.

Another “twist” on the video relay method is through remote link-ups with patients and nurses at regular scheduled intervals. American TeleCare offers a system like this that allows scheduled visits, as well as on-demand visits when patient’s information indicates that a health emergency could exist. The system does not include installing cameras throughout the house; rather, it relies on a monitoring station that patients are taught how to use with little assistance.

Systems like Lifetime Care allow patients to measure weight, temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other vitals and enter them into a system on a daily basis. The information is then transmitted to a central processing center where a nurse reviews the data and decides if any action is needed. Maybe a doctor needs to assess the patient for further review; perhaps no action needs to be taken and the patient is performing as well as can be expected.

QuietCare offers a monitoring alternative that does not take the same bits of data, yet it can paint a portrait of activities of daily living in the home. The QuietCare system places sensors throughout the home that are triggered by motion. When a person enters a bathroom, for example, the sensor records the activity. The system then records how long the person was in the bathroom by noting the time that the sensor was activated again. Repeat trips to the bathroom could be a cause for concern at the doctor’s office that a patient may never mention to their physician until more extensive follow-up is needed. Other sensors are placed strategically throughout the home to record nocturnal wakings, whether or not they took their medicine, and if a person left the home or if a visitor dropped by for a few minutes.

Available telehealth systems offer a way for both doctors and caregivers to access the information (provided proper confidentiality waivers are in place) in order to determine if the patient is doing well at home or if they need more assistance. In addition, since these systems are monitored 24 hours/day, if emergency assistance is needed, alarms can be sent to whomever the patient designates.

Caregivers may find that these types of systems provide more than peace of mind. For those patients who are reluctant to reveal details of their overall health for various reasons, home monitoring systems can provide the daily outlook of a patient and notify caregivers and physicians before symptoms become too serious. By avoiding hospital stays and keeping patients stable in their homes, patients may be more compliant with physician orders and stay on track with their health plans.


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