In early 2015, Phelps launched a telehealth pilot project in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Hudson Valley. All program participants are patients of Phelps Medical Associates providers who were chosen based on their need for chronic disease management or risk for repeat hospitalizations.
During the first nine months of the program, 82 patients received in-home monitoring of their blood pressure, pulse, weight and oxygen level. Working closely together, the VNA telehealth nurse and Phelps Medical Associates providers are helping patients improve their health.
Although patients generally use telehealth for a month or two while working toward a specific goal, some need to remain in the program for a longer period of time. Through a combination of daily monitoring, education and the implementation of lifestyle changes, patients are improving their health. Patients with multiple chronic conditions have been able to decrease both their blood pressure and blood glucose levels through greater compliance with their treatment plan.
Telehealth also offers participants education tailored to their diagnosis and one-on-one video chat health coaching with a telehealth nurse. As a result, many have reported making beneficial lifestyle changes such as reducing sodium intake and increasing physical activity. These changes have led to weight loss and corresponding drops in blood pressure and blood sugar levels. As one patient explained, “Working with the telehealth program gave me comfort and made me aware of my blood pressure and weight.” The patient lost 15 pounds and increased his activity by walking, and he hopes to start jogging after he loses more weight. And, said another patient, “With the help of the telehealth program I have more knowledge about medication, diet and hypertension.” She has eliminated salt and caffeine from her diet since she’s been in the program.
A significant benefit of telehealth is that changes in a patient’s condition are readily identified, enabling prompt intervention by the patient’s medical practitioner. Patients who become more aware of their health status through daily monitoring begin to take more responsibility for their own health. Once enrolled in the program, patients are more apt to contact their primary care provider about a medical problem right away, rather than waiting until there is a need for emergency care. One patient who used to make frequent trips to the emergency room due to recurrent episodes of anxiety-related chest pain has learned how to manage the condition with relaxation techniques, and her visits to the ER have decreased. For others, daily interaction and weekly video chats with a health professional have boosted their confidence about managing their care at home and provided much-needed socialization. One patient reported a decrease in feelings of depression and an increase in appetite.
To participate in the pilot project, patients must have a Phelps Medical Associates provider and require chronic disease management or be at risk for repeated hospitalizations. While enrolled in the pilot project, the costs of the monitoring services are defrayed by a generous donation from the William Olson Memorial Fund and Phelps’ participation in the federally funded Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative.
For more information on the telehealth program, contact the Vitality program at 914-366-3937 or Phelps Medical Associates Case Management at 914-366-1168.