The Hefner VA Medical Center is implementing a system for vets that saves them many a trip to the hospital. Through a telemonitoring system, adjustments to care for their chronic conditions can be made based on self-reported data sent electronically to a central facility…
Thomas Howell knows that the new gadgets in his Yadkin House apartment have saved him from going to the hospital twice.
Actually, the people connected on the other end of those gadgets made the difference. They’re doctors and nurses at the Hefner VA Medical Center, and twice, they noticed the oxygen level in Howell’s blood dropping and had special medicine delivered to his apartment to correct the problem.
“It sure … beats going to the hospital,” Howell, a 71-year-old Korean War veteran, said recently.
The help for Howell and dozens of other “at risk” veterans with serious medical problems comes through a new community health program called Care Coordination Home Telehealth.
The program pays to install telemonitors in each veteran’s home and trains veterans to use the equipment to send their medical readings through a computer and phone line daily to the Care Coordination team at the Hefner VA in Salisbury.
Howell takes his blood pressure and blood-oxygen level, which he obtains by simply snapping a device on his finger. He also answers questions about how he’s feeling and if he’s taken his medication. All that goes by the computer to the team of Janice Pratt, program support assistant; Deborah Lee, lead care coordinator; and Dr. Ann Hightower, clinical director.
The team works with veterans’ primary care providers to arrange treatment changes, set up clinic appointments or arrange hospital admissions when necessary.
And the service is free.
The program has only two requirements. First, the veteran must have a chronic condition such as diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive lung disease.
Second, the veteran must have a “land line” telephone, though with new technology, VA officials hopes to eventually offer the program to veterans who only have cellular phones.
This can be huge for someone like Howell, who lives alone, uses a wheelchair and doesn’t have a car, for whom a hospital trip would be exceedingly burdensome.
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