Health Beat

Health Beat: The doctor is in... your living room

Health Beat: The doctor is in... your...

PITTSBURGH - 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," Kaiser said.

Two heart attacks, a stroke and two surgeries require Kaiser's doctors to keep a close eye on his health, but the 83-year-old doesn't like to leave home or his wife, Betty, as she fights cancer. It's one reason Kaiser 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, a UPMC remote monitoring nurse.

"We always thought the older patients wouldn't adopt it, but we're actually seeing age bias," said Dr. Andrew R. Watson, a physician and medical director of telemedicine at UPMC.

Elderly patients tell Watson they like that the technology gives them better access to experts. Richard Kaiser 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 because the nurses are monitoring it every day," Kaiser stated.

More than 1,100 patients with congestive heart failure have been part of the 90-day monitoring program. The hospital said 92 percent of the patients who enrolled 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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