Testimonies from Residents
In March 2011, Centura Health at Home launched a telehealth pilot program for residents living at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth in Denver. The grant, made possible by Catholic Health Initiatives, allowed us to conduct a feasibility study for a multi-user telehealth unit.
A telehealth station was created on the senior living campus to collect blood pressure, weight and oxygen level for residents living with chronic illnesses. Each participating resident was assigned an identification card to swipe and check in to the telehealth station. After answering a series of questions regarding how the resident is feeling using the touch-screen monitor, the resident then takes their vitals using the telehealth machine, which the residents affectionately named "George." Vitals are automatically uploaded and sent to the telehealth nurse for review. The nurse reviews the patient's data daily, following up with the resident and their physician as needed.
Already, the telehealth pilot at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth has shown impressive results by reducing emergency room visits, educating residents on specific diseases and chronic illnesses, engaging residents to participate in managing their health and providing data to residents' primary care physicians.
Meet five residents who have been on the telehealth pilot and see what they have to say about the program!
After only living at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth for one year, Lauretta has settled in and has made some new friends, including "George" the telehealth machine. When the 89 year old started on the telehealth program, she was asymptomatic and questioned if she should be enrolled in the program. When her initial vitals indicated a significantly elevated heart rate, she thought the machine was faulty. But after a few days of monitoring, it become clear to her that the problem was not the equipment and her health started to decline rapidly.
"George" alerted the monitoring nurse of a potential dangerously high heart rate and possible irregular heart beat. The telehealth nurse confirmed her elevated heart rate along with a significant arrhythmia and encouraged her to make an appointment right away with her doctor.
"I had to see a new doctor because mine moved, so I took the information from "George" and went to get checked. The new doctor thought it was very helpful to have this information."
Lauretta was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia and referred to a cardiac specialist where she was prescribed new medications and adjusted current medications. Lauretta also started receiving home care services because she could not leave her apartment to get her blood drawn.
"I wouldn't have known this if it wasn't for "George." I think I would have ended up in the hospital if it wasn't for him. "George" has taught me about my new medications and about my new condition. I am so pleased I'm in this program; it's made all the difference and I feel so much better now" she said.
Gerry, age 89, has lived at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth for seven years and although she remains quite active, she suffers from congestive heart failure and aortic valve stenosis requiring frequent blood transfusions. For the past four weeks, Gerry has walked down the hall to for her daily visit with "George," the telehealth machine. Gerry, often unassisted, boots up "George" to take her vitals including blood pressure, oxygen levels and weight at the telehealth monitoring station.
"I think "George" is very easy to figure out and I'm not a computer person," she says. "It's comforting to know my health is being monitored every day and it's easier for me to stay on top of my own health. It's especially nice I don't even have to leave the building to have this done. "George" helps me catch things sooner, before I need a transfusion."
Gerry's daughter who lives out of town said "it's such a relief to know she's looked after so well. I know someone will catch something if her health starts to change. It's a great benefit and she's now more alert and engaged about her own health."
Suffering from severe asthma, 83 year old Anne started on the telehealth program at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth just one month ago. When Anne suffered from an asthma attack in the past, she would often delay treatment until she was in a crisis situation, ultimately needing to call 9-1-1. Her goal while enrolled in the telehealth was to be able to identify symptoms of an attack and act quickly before the situation escalated. On April 15th, Anne proved she was on track with her goal. As she started to feel short of breath, Anne identified her symptoms and the resources available to her. After consulting with the telehealth nurse and controlling her symptoms, she called her doctor to make an appointment to be seen that day. Anne was able to get the treatment she needed without having to visit the Emergency Room.
"As we get older, we think we know it all, but sometimes your perception isn't always right," she says. "The feedback I get from "George" (the telehealth machine) is great; you can't tell these things on your own. For example, I didn't know a medication I'm on decreases my blood pressure but "George" taught me that."
Anne's daughter is thrilled she's on the program. Anne and her daughter agree it gives them both peace of mind and has made Anne less nervous about having an asthma attack.
As the oldest resident using the telehealth program, Lois, 96, proves using the machine is easy to do. "I think George is easy to figure out and he's very polite too," she said. Suffering from weight loss, a urinary tract infection and other health issues, Lois started using the telehealth program five times a week. After monitoring and talking with the telehealth nurse, Lois was able to get on antibiotics to treat her infection and has started to gain weight after changing her diet. As she has improved over the past four weeks, Lois now checks in with George once a week.
"The program is very helpful and it's good knowing Kris (the telehealth nurse) checks in on me, "she said.
A resident of The Gardens at St. Elizabeth for six years, Simon, age 85, suffers from a rare degenerative neurological disorder, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelanating Polyneuropathy (CIPD). Fearful of losing complete mobility in his upper body, he identified his telehealth goal as starting physical and occupational therapy. Simon also suffers from diabetes, so he goes down the hall five times a week to see "George," the telehealth machine and have his vitals and blood sugar levels managed.
"I feel more at ease on the telehealth program," he said. "The lessons and information "George" gives me is very helpful and the questions it asks are questions I probably wouldn't think about on my own. "George" helps me monitor my symptoms and how I'm feeling. He's now part of my morning routine; I wake up, get dressed and go down the hall to see "George"-usually, I wake him up!"
Simon said he also has a better relationship with his doctor because of the telehealth program. "My doctor is very impressed with the program and likes the feedback and data it provides. I like having more information about my health too."