Telehealth, a New Kind of Home Care

Telehealth helps Karen Giordano feel in control of her health.

Patients are managing chronic health conditions and reducing preventable rehospitalization with the Phelps Memorial Hospital Center’s Telehealth Program.

Exacerbations due to congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes cause up to 20 percent of hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge. Telehealth helps patients prevent avoidable rehospitalizations and supports their ability to age in place safely, responsibly and independently. Phelps is the only hospital in Westchester to offer this service, in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Hudson Valley.

Equipment installed in a patient’s home captures and wirelessly transmits vital signs (including blood pressure, pulse oximetry and weight) to the VNA’s Telehealth Department for review and assessment. In the case of an abnormal result, a telehealth nurse contacts the patient to determine the cause and follows up with the primary care provider, if necessary. For example, if the nurse finds that the patient has not been taking medication as prescribed or is eating food prohibited by a medical condition, the nurse can educate the patient instantly.

Staying Connected Karen Giordano of Elmsford has high blood pressure and finds the telehealth system easy to use. “I would highly recommend it,” she said. “By looking at my numbers [vital signs] every day, it keeps me aware of my health and I become an active participant in my own health.”

Ms. Giordano checks in weekly via a video chat with Anne Cusack, RN. “Anne also calls me immediately if one of my numbers is not what it is supposed to be,” said Ms. Giordano. “I don’t get out much, so I love talking on the video chat.”

“Telehealth helps patients self-manage their chronic or newly diagnosed conditions, and gives them extra clinical support so they can be more independent,” said Judith Sapione, RN, clinical quality manager for Phelps Medical Associates, the hospital’s primary and specialty care medical group, who oversees the program. “Patients really feel like they’re in control of their health. Especially for those who are very frail, or have multiple chronic conditions, it’s a real support and comfort knowing that they’re being monitored so closely.”

Telehealth helps patients know when a health condition warrants a visit to the primary care physician, and makes it less likely they will wait until a condition worsens to the point that would require a trip to the Emergency Department, Ms. Sapione said. “Patients have already experienced the benefits of Telehealth. Several required intervention, and their care was managed in a timely way — giving them better outcomes.”

Participants in the six-month pilot program are patients of Phelps Medical Associates physicians. Telehealth services are being offered free of charge to participants, thanks to a generous donation from the William Olson Memorial Fund.

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