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

(Page 1 of 3)

When many rural communities in the 1990s began to look for options to provide medical care to their area without a physician in residence, telehealth options surfaced and flourished. Patients could visit an office once or twice a week, have a traveling nurse take vitals, and then speak to a physician through a video relay service. For those areas who before had no health care, the programs provided much-needed access to individuals who otherwise may have gone without.

Now telehealth options are expanding into the home and are seen by some as a way to keep the disabled and elderly at home longer and out of nursing home care. The costs of long-term care have increased dramatically in recent years and individuals are no longer willing to accept that nursing home care is the only way to age with the basics of medical attention.

The Center for Telehealth and E-Health Law notes, “the use of home care technology now makes it possible for advanced data collection systems working in conjunction with remote video and non-video communication devices to simplify home care practices for both patients and home care personnel.” In other words, remote monitoring is now one of the ways that individuals are choosing to age in place and still keep close tabs with the doctor’s office and the changing landscape of healthcare today.

Another benefit of remote monitoring is the reduced amount of hospitalizations or hospital stays that chronically ill patients endure. An independent study of monitored vs. non-monitored patients formed by Strategic Healthcare Programs revealed that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) improved in activities of daily living and were more stable. Those patients who received home monitoring reported improvements rates of 80.3 percent vs. 71.8 percent of those who were not monitored. Another study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated reduced hospitalization rates for monitored patients from 3.2 hospitalizations per person to 0.8 hospitalizations per person.

For those who are unfamiliar with telehealth in the home, there are several basic ways services can be provided that can aid the patient and the caregiver with everyday medical decisions. Some physicians may use the term remote monitoring in lieu of telehealth. Basically, the same services can be provided with similar results.

No One-Size-Fits-All Systems

There are many different types of systems on the market that seek to gather data about a person in the home and communicate that information to a caregiver or physician. These systems differ from a personal emergency response system (PERS) in that they allow patients to give a well-rounded view of the activities in the home environment. From a physician’s stand-point, having first-hand information of what activities are going on at home allows them to make better diagnoses than simply relying on self-report “snap shots” in the office.

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