Fort Myers, FL, February 12, 2010 --(PR.com
)-- Patients hospitalized for problems resulting from congestive heart failure, hypertension or diabetes often require ongoing monitoring, either through home health agencies or frequent trips to the doctor. Failure to pay careful attention to vitals like heart rate and blood pressure could result in further health risks, or even a trip back to the hospital. In fact, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration found 7.3 percent of patients readmitted to hospitals within 15 days of being sent home had “potentially preventable” readmission reasons. Of these, nearly half were readmitted for cardiology-related concerns.
That readmission risk is about to get a little bit lower in Lee County, thanks to 50 new telehealth monitors purchased for Lee Memorial Home Health by Lee Memorial Health System hospitals’ auxiliaries. Telehealth monitors are essentially home stations set up with scales, blood pressure sleeves, and other equipment patients need to conduct basic health tests. At a designated time each morning, the monitors “talk” patients through the tests, giving them step-by-step instructions to put on or remove sleeves or sensors and asking them three to four basic questions. Once the tests are complete, the results are sent to the Home Health office through an analog or wireless phone line.
“The monitors don’t replace home visits from our nurses, but they do allow us to monitor patients daily even when a nurse isn’t there,” says Cindy Christman, RN and Executive Director of Lee Memorial Home Health. “This is very important for patients with heart conditions at risk of sudden severe symptoms or worsening of their conditions.” Lee Memorial Home Health’s 30-nurse team offers home-based care for 250 – 450 patients in Lee County at a time, depending on the time of year. Nurses, therapists and social workers visit patients’ homes an average of three times per week, depending on the care they require.
Christman says the monitors improve patient care and make good sense financially.
“The new telehealth monitors help us track patients’ vital signs remotely and more regularly, so we can act quickly if something starts to look like a problem,” Christman says. “We also can provide daily readouts of patients’ results to their physicians at their request, so the physicians can also monitor their progress and give us further instruction if needed. And, we’re able to do all of this from patients’ homes, which is where they want to be.
“Earlier detection of minor changes helps us keep patients at home and avoids the cost of additional emergency room treatment or hospital readmissions, which benefits all LMHS patients,” Christman continues. AHCA found that the average cost of potentially preventable readmissions was $31,643 for a 6-day stay.
Since deploying its first monitors earlier this month, Lee Memorial Home Health has installed approximately 30 in patients’ homes. Christman hopes to have the rest installed by mid-February. Patients are selected by level of risk, which is determined in partnership with the hospital and physicians. Congestive heart failure is the most common condition telehealth monitors are used to track, though patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension and diabetes can also benefit from the machines.
In time, the monitors can be developed to record even more patient symptoms, such as electrocardiogram, or EKG, readings. Lee Memorial Home Health also plans to integrate the ability to transmit results to patients’ primary physicians electronically and automatically in the future, instead of via fax machine as it does today. Lee Memorial Health System also wants to install a monitor at The Wellness Center of Cape Coral so members can record their vital statistics when they work out and print out reports showing trends for their doctors.
“The monitors are definitely part of the future of health care in Lee County,” Christman says. “We probably aren’t the only health system or home health agency using the monitors, but the partnership between all of the systems’ departments is unique and adds to the monitors' potential. “
About Lee Memorial Health System
Open since 1916, Lee Memorial Health System is the fifth largest public health system in the United States and the largest community-owned health system in Southwest Florida. With more than 9,000 employees, LMHS is made up of four acute care hospitals and two specialty hospitals, as well as outpatient centers, walk-in medical centers and primary care physician offices. An award-winning health care system, LMHS provides regional programs, such as our Trauma Center and Children’s Hospital, which serve our community members from Tampa to Miami. Visit www.LeeMemorial.org for more information.