It's been called 'the stethoscope of the future,' but the future is already here when it comes to telemedicine. This expertise, which fundamentally refers to any kind of remote monitoring of patients, is used in a range of settings, from home health care agencies and visiting-nurse associations that track the vital signs of patients with chronic diseases to hospitals that use telemedicine in their emergency rooms to diagnose stroke victims. Proponents say the expertise helps people live longer, and more independently, while reducing the general cost of health care.
Last summer Edna Ogulewicz had triple bypass surgical procedure. When the 83-year-old returned home from the hospital, he didn't know how to monitor her own recovery.
But thanks to the home-based telemonitoring method used by Mercy Home Care, a member of the Sisters of Providence Health Method in Springfield, a nurse could see the octogenarian's weight, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation every day by a computer screen without having to visit her home.
Ogulewicz was given a special blood-pressure cuff, a clip to attach to her finger to measure her oxygen, an oversized scale, and a small base unit which was plugged in to the wall and in to her home phone line.
Every morning between 6:30 and 7 a.m., he took her blood pressure, weighed herself, and used the oxygen monitor. That information was immediately transmitted to a central monitoring station and then to a secure Web-site where a Mercy telehealth nurse could see the readings and decide whether there were any signs of trouble.
It was very convenient. I am a very nervous person, but I found myself quiet doing this,'Ogulewicz said. 'I am not a professional, so I didn't know if the results were nice, bad, or indifferent. It was something new, but I liked it, and it made me feel more secure.'
One day, when the scale showed he had gained a few pounds, the nurse called her and, after discussing what he had eaten the earlier day, determined it was the result of consuming much sodium. 'It's nice to have someone watching you,' Ogulewicz said, adding he found the method so beneficial that he told her doctor it would be great for all of his patients.
Ogulewicz is of lots of people in the U.S. who are becoming more confident about caring for themselves and their chronic conditions due to telemedicine.
The expertise is used locally in several settings. Lots of home health care agencies and visiting-nurse associations have deployed home telemonitoring systems to track the vital signs of their patients who have chronic diseases.
In addition, physicians at Baystate Franklin Medical Middle and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital are using telemedicine in their emergency rooms with stroke victims.
'Telehealth is the stethoscope of the future that allows people to get information in a fast and efficient way,' said Mary Thomas, director of Homecare Operations for Baystate Health System's Visiting Nurse Assoc.