Doctor in your house

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pa - For the past decade, hospitals have used technology to connect doctors in major medical centers with patients at remote, rural offices. Now, a new trend is taking telemedicine one step beyond. UPMC is putting technology directly in the hands of house-bound, often elderly patients.  

Richard Kaiser lives in rural Pennsylvania; more than an hour away from his cardiologist. 

“You know you could be sitting there healthy as a bear, with heart trouble, and five minutes later have a heart attack," he said.
 
Two heart attacks, a stroke and two surgeries require Richard’s doctors to keep a close eye on his health. But this 83-year-old doesn’t like to leave home, or his wife Betty, as she fights cancer. 
 
It’s one reason Richard is taking part in a study assessing the health benefits of home monitoring. He was shipped a tablet. A  bluetooth connected scale, and other wireless devices to measure his oxygen levels and blood pressure. 
 
In real-time, a nurse based in a call center checks for changes. Weight gain or increased blood pressure might signal a red flag.  

“The program really does help the patient to understand how to take care of themselves in the comfort of their home, independently," said Linda Somma, RN, UPMC remote monitoring nurse.

Andrew Watson is president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association and the medical director of UPMC Telemedicine.  He said, "we always thought the older patients wouldn’t adopt it, but we’re actually seeing age bias.” 

 Elderly patients tell Dr Watson they like that the technology gives them better access to experts. Richard  had one hospitalization and two emergency visits in the six months before he started the monitoring --since then, zero.

 You don’t have to be chasing to the doctor cause the nurses are monitoring it every day," Richard said.

More than 1100 patients with congestive heart failure have been part of the 90-day monitoring program. The hospital says 92 percent of them are complying; and hospitalizations and ER visits are down.  The call center nurses are also using the remote monitoring to find patients who are in need of medical assistance and dispatch a visiting nurse to the home.

 


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