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Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'd land at the hospital again, if not for this: Telemonitoring

Mariano is 87 and lives in a suburb of Boston. He struggles with "a few health problems – heart failure, glaucoma, and I know I have some [heart] ventricles that are not functioning properly."

He's one of five million people who are living with heart failure. It's a chronic, life-changing condition that impacts his whole family. His daughter Michele visits frequently to help take care of him.

"Everybody in that position knows it's difficult," he says.

After his most recent hospitalization, he came home with a new type of helper. "I'm being checked every day by nurses, at headquarters, I presume. The nurse contacts me separately. If I put on a pound or two, I get a call, sure as heck. That helps so much! I'd land at the hospital again, if not for this."

He's a participant in the Cardiac Connect Program at Partners Healthcare, which was designed for people with heart failure. It brings state of the art equipment to homes, to help monitor heart conditions daily.

"What's important for cardiac care is what patients do daily at home. Telemonitoring is a great tool," according to Dr. Stephanie Moore. "What's important is NOT what is in the 20-minute office visit, and what they say they're doing, but what they're really doing at home."

Patients use the equipment at home to monitor their heart rate, oxygen levels in their blood, and their weight. They answer a few questions about how they're feeling, which takes a few minutes, and that's transmitted electronically to the Home Care program's nursing station.

"The system identifies any problems, and we'd call those patients immediately," says nurse Susan Leonard.

They might ask, "I've noticed your weight has gone up by two pounds. How are you feeling? Did you have a lot to eat with sodium yesterday?"

Mariano's daughter Michele says, "It make me feel comforted that he can operate it himself and knows what ranges he should fall in."

He says, "It created a little more confidence. Once the machine is gone, I'll do my best to carry on, since I know the Why's, and the If's, and the Don'ts."

Advice to people with serious chronic illnesses:
Ask your insurer and doctor what kind of ongoing help they can give you.

Read a story on the role of education in coping with chronic illness.

Thanks to the Center for Connected Health for their source video.

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