Tele-Monitoring Helps Reduce CHF Hospitalizations

Every morning at 7:15, Joan Hergenrother is greeted by a friendly computerized voice that reminds her to step on a "smart" scale.

Once her weight is measured, the voice directs her to place her arm in an attached blood pressure cuff and her finger in an oxygen monitor. Once her vitals have been checked and recorded, they are immediately and securely transmitted to Ingalls Home Care, where a registered nurse monitors Joan's daily check-ins and can quickly react to any unexpected changes.

Like nearly five million other Americans, Joan has congestive heart failure (CHF), a chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the body's other organs. While its causes are varied – coronary artery disease, previous heart attack, problems with the heart's valves – its symptoms are the same: shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in the feet and ankles, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

If the condition isn't controlled through proper diet and medication, frequent hospitalizations result. In fact, nearly 30% of people with CHF find themselves back in the hospital within 30 days of a prior hospital stay.

Ingalls Home Care, however, is doing its part to keep CHF patients at home through an innovative new telehealth-monitoring program.

The Honeywell HomMed's Genesis DM equipment measures vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure and weight on a daily basis. The information collected is then transmitted to Ingalls Home Care, where a nurse reviews and, if necessary, reacts to any changes.

Following a December hospital stay at Ingalls, Joan's doctor recommended the special monitoring device, compliments of Ingalls Home Care.

If Joan's daily check-ins show fluctuations from the previous day, Ingalls Home Care nurses know about it immediately. Then, if necessary, they can work with her doctor to adjust medications right away – keeping her comfortably at home, not in the hospital.

"It's keeping me alert to what's going on," Joan says. "I'm becoming aware of a lot of things (related to my health)."

"Since we implemented the program, we've seen a large decrease in the number of patients who need to be readmitted to the hospital because of CHF complication," explains Sharon Casey, R.N., M.N., A.P.N.-B.C., coordinator of the Heart Failure Readmission Prevention Program. In fact, in just one three-month period in 2010, 36 Home Care patients were monitored using the at-home equipment, and only 9 percent required readmission within 30 days – considerably lower than the 27 percent national average.

"It's been very helpful," Joan adds.

For more information on telehealth monitoring available through Ingalls Home Care, please call 708.331.0226.

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