Self-Management for Chronic Illnesses
Telemonitoring services provided by VNA Space Coast can reduce re-hospitalization
It is estimated that on a national level, chronic health conditions – including hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease – account for 75 percent of health care costs in the U.S. Moreover, it’s also estimated that there is an approximate 30 percent chance of re-hospitalization within 30 days for patients with these conditions.
That said, it’s important that patients suffering from chronic health conditions have proper testing done, not only by physicians at their offices, but also at home using telemonitoring devices.
“Using a telemonitor, patients check their own vital signs each morning and answer a series of questions related to their illness,” says Michael Gardner, director of communications for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Space Coast, an organization that provides telemonitoring services at no charge to patients.
“The vital data and their answers are then sent to our nurses for monitoring and trending. By keeping a close eye on patients’ chronic health conditions, we have seen the re-hospitalization rates for patients using telemonitoring cut in half, ” he says.
VNA Space Coast is a Medicare-certified home health agency providing nurses; home health aides; physical, speech, and occupational therapists; and in-home telemonitoring throughout Central and Southern Brevard County. The non-profit organization also provides community wellness services such as flu and pneumonia vaccinations, no-cost blood pressure/blood glucose screenings and speakers on health-related topics for local community groups.
SPOTLIGHT ON HYPERTENSION
For patients suffering from hypertension in particular, monitoring their blood pressure at home can greatly reduce their hospital and emergency-room visits, explains Gobivenkata Balaji, M.D., F.A.C.P., a specialist in clinical hypertension who is board certified in internal medicine.
“The cause of hypertension is not known, but it is associated with increased risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and memory loss. For every 20/10 increase in the blood pressure from 115/75, the risk almost doubles. Studies have shown that controlling blood pressure in 11 people prevents one death,” says Dr. Balaji, who practices at the Brevard Health Center in Melbourne and is the president-elect of BIMDA.
Dr. Balaji explains that blood pressure readings obtained at a physician’s office have a lesser correlation with risk for a heart attack or stroke than those obtained with an at-home telemonitoring device. “It is important to check blood pressure at home while resting with no pain or anxiety, and then review the reading with your physician,” he says.
VNA Space Coast works with local physicians by providing them with telemonitoring reports, allowing physicians and home care staff to more effectively monitor a patient’s chronic illness. Using these self-management devices, data is collected and sent via the Internet or wirelessly to nurses and physicians. If the data is not in the prescribed range, appropriate care for the patient’s specific needs can be facilitated.
While telemonitoring cannot replace physical visits by a registered nurse, it does offer many benefits, including allowing patients to feel a greater sense of independence, improved quality of life and increased compliance with health care regimens.
“Control requires a multidisciplinary team approach between the patient and physician,” says Dr. Balaji, “and will lead to better outcomes in young and older patients alike.”