Chronic illnesses such as sleep apnea and diabetes can land patients in and out of the hospital. But these patients can avoid repeated hospital stays if their health problems are addressed before they become severe. That's why the
Meadville Medical Center
is rolling out a new program to catch problems while they can still be addressed with simple measures, like medication.
"Can we provide continuous care to them at their home and improve their quality of life?" asks Barry Bittman, chief innovations officer at the hospital in northwest PA.
Patients with chronic conditions need to be monitored regularly. To make that process easier, Meadville will start giving some of its patients a touch-screen device called Electronic House Call
, which connects to tools such as a blood-pressure cuff. Each day they will have to answer certain questions tailored to their conditions. It might ask a patient if she woke up with swollen ankles or had trouble breathing, then ask her to weigh herself on a scale that's connected to the device. The results are sent over the Internet to a medical team at the hospital.
"If a person has congestive heart failure and we're worried about the patient gaining three pounds in a day because of fluid retention, and they weigh three pounds more today than they did yesterday, we get an email," Bittman explains.
He says patients will get the device if their medical histories and severity of their illnesses show they'd benefit from it. Patients will receive other help, including health coaches and transportation to regular doctors' visits.
Source: Barry Bittman, Meadville Medical Center
Writer: Rebecca VanderMeulen