By Briana Vannozzi
At 96 years young, Art England knows monitoring his health is a critical part of the daily routine. But he says he’d rather be in control and watch it himself.
“The best thing about it is if you have a nurse coming to do this, you have to be ready at a special time. This way here, you’re at ease whenever you decide to do it. It’s available,” he said.
“Telehealth is a way for us to help our patients manage their chronic conditions at home and hopefully avoid an unnecessary hospitalization,” said chronic care manager Deb Levin.
Home telehealth care uses an electronic system that sends a patient’s vital data back to a home base. In this case, it’s Levin’s office at the Visiting Nurses Association of Somerset Hills.
“So the transmission usually incorporates a weight, a blood pressure, a heart rate and an oxygen reading,” Levin said.
Nurses typically monitor patients with COPD, heart failure, frequent pneumonia and diabetes. If something looks off, they intervene on a patient’s behalf — first calling them to give instructions, then a physician if needed.
“In a pilot program that we’ve done we did reduce re-admissions by 50 percent so ultimately it does save the health care system a great deal of money, and not only does it save the system money, it also improves the quality of life of patients so that they can remain in the community,” said Home Care Association of New Jersey Board Chair Ann Painter.
The problem? Only about 30 percent of organizations across the country can offer it.
“Right now what we’re seeing is Medicare not reimbursing for telehealth services. Additionally our state also does not reimburse through the Medicaid benefit either,” said Home Care Association of New Jersey President Chrissy Buteas.
And while the cost savings and hospital re-admission rates may be important factors, one of the most important benefits, they say, is patient involvement and awareness of their own health.
“I know how I’m maintaining my life. Monday night I ate too much. I was at a picnic. I went over 150 pounds,” England said.
“It provides a sense of security to our patients. They know that a nurse is on the other end of their device looking every single day making sure that they’re stable,” Levin said.
And for this former World War II aerial engineer, with a lot of pep left in his step, that’s just the ticket.