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HOUSTON – Veterans with chronic medical conditions requiring frequent monitoring now have access to a wide variety of convenient, easy-to-use telemedicine devices that send daily health updates from their homes to VA health care providers.

The Home TeleHealth Program at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) provides these high-tech gadgets free of charge to Veterans so important medical information about such acute conditions as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, and heart failure can be continually monitored.

To participate in the Home TeleHealth Program, Veterans must be assigned to a VA primary care provider, have been evaluated in the last six months, and have a disease severity level requiring more than ten visits per year. Patients also need access to “Plain Old Telephone Service” (POTS) and have electrical service in their home. Either the patient or the caregiver must possess sufficient cognitive function to use the equipment, interact with the care coordinator, and report monitoring variables.

One simple piece of equipment, called a “Health Buddy®,” looks like an answering machine. It collects and transmits disease management information including vital signs, symptoms, and behaviors to VA Home TeleHealth Program nurse practitioners and registered nurse care coordinators. With this critical data, VA health care providers are able to closely monitor Veterans, make recommendations, and communicate with the patient and other members of their health care team.

The MEDVAMC also uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology for its visually impaired patients. In telecommunications, IVR allows Veterans to speak their responses into a cell or home telephone.

The Viterion TeleHealth Monitor® and Cardiocom’s Commander Home Telehealth Monitoring System® are used to measure weight, blood pressure, pulse, blood glucose, and pain levels. Wireless monitors allow patients to take measurements from convenient locations in their homes.

“These new telemedicine devices help Veterans take better care of their health by providing them a more active role in their own well being,” said Home TeleHealth Care Coordinator Ayalanda Williams, R.N., B.S.N., M.H.A. “Veterans in this program enjoy greater peace of mind knowing that the people responsible for their medical care have their latest heath information.”

Before a telemedicine device is activated, specific questions about the Veteran and his illness are recorded. The patient answers these questions each day. Information such as blood pressure, weight, and blood glucose level are entered into the electronic system allowing the Veteran’s care coordinator to anticipate and prevent avoidable problems. Health care providers monitor daily and contact the patient for medication adjustments or schedule appointments to keep the Veteran as healthy as possible.

Health care providers have seen a rise in positive outcomes from patients who have used telemedicine devices.

“Patients in the Home TeleHealth Program have had significant improvements in diabetic control and a reduction in unscheduled clinic and emergency visits,” said Williams. “This device improves self-care, treatment, and medication compliance by educating, motivating and monitoring patients on a daily basis.”

Telemedicine technology does not replace routine medical appointments; rather, it enhances primary care. These devices enable Veterans to take a more active role in their well-being and have peace of mind knowing their health care providers have up-to-date information every day in order to adjust their medical care.

For more information about Home TeleHealth Program, contact Marcia Crane at 713-791-1414, ext. 4691 or Nicklette Knight at 713-791-1414, ext. 3218.

Friday, March 16, 2012


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