March 30, 2017 – With BayCare HomeCare’s new telemonitoring service, homebound patients now have the opportunity see and talk to their homecare team without ever leaving the house. Featuring tablet-style devices, the service provides two-way video and audio communication.
BayCare HomeCare has expanded its telemonitoring program by adding an interactive video component and syncing home-based patient monitoring devices such as blood pressure monitors, scales and pulse oximeters to the system.
The focus of the program is on patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who are at high risk for readmissions to the hospital. “Patients with these conditions require close observation of their health,” said Jeffrey Held, MD, chief medical officer of BayCare’s ambulatory services division. “A weight gain of just a few pounds can be an early sign that a CHF patient’s disease is getting worse. Our goal is to give patients the opportunity to manage their care independently at their home rather than being readmitted to the hospital.”
BayCare HomeCare has been using telehealth since 2005, monitoring a patient’s weight, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation and transmitting these vital signs to an office. The difference in the new program is the added capability of video and the use of a software program to help monitor the data, allowing for virtual home visits or teleconferencing.
St. Joseph’s Hospital patients were the first to use the new telemonitoring system, in the pilot program in September. The service is now available to qualified patients from Winter Haven, Morton Plant, St. Joseph’s-North, St. Anthony’s, Morton Plant and Morton Plant North Bay hospitals. It is expected to expand to patients cared for at all BayCare hospitals by the end of May.
Here’s how the program works:
Each morning, the patient is prompted by the system to take their vital signs and answers several questions about how they are feeling. The information is automatically transmitted to a program. A cardiac critical care nurse at a BayCare HomeCare office then reviews each patient’s information. If a patient’s vital signs or the symptom screening questions are not within normal guidelines, the nurse can call the patient, to ask additional questions. With video conferencing, the nurse can go one step further and set up a virtual visit to actually see the patient while evaluating their condition.
If the patient’s condition warrants a doctor’s attention, the nurse can teleconference the doctor, a pharmacist or anyone on the care team who needs to be consulted. The patient’s family also can be linked in so that everyone is seeing and discussing the same information at the same time. “With the monitor, we have the ability to improve care and have the family participate even if they are in another state,” said Dr. Held.
Telemonitoring is considered a supplement to care and does not replace home visits. Patients continue to receive home visits by a nurse which are interspersed with virtual visits to help monitor their progress.
Patients are initially evaluated to determine their level of interest and ability to use the telemedicine device. When the nurse first meets with the patient, the patient is assessed to determine their acceptance/capability with the technology. A dedicated installer will go out to the home to set up the system and help the patient with the first virtual visit. On the following day, the RN will visit the patient in person have the patient participate in the second virtual visit with the telestation nurse. If the tablet isn’t the best option for the patient, the non-interactive equipment can still be used.
This new HomeCare program is just one of a series of telemedicine solutions BayCare is using to enhance care and improve access. The solutions include:
- HealthNav, a free mobile app that can help guide people with non-urgent conditions to convenient, quality medical services.
- eCare, an electronic patient monitoring system that uses remote computer monitoring technology to enhance the care of critically ill patients in the hospital intensive care unit (ICU.)
- BayCare Anywhere, a 24/7 non-emergency telemedicine service offering virtual doctor visits through a secure, interactive video and audio communications on a smart phone, tablet or computer.
- Telemonitoring of patients in nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities