Telehealth: An Online Lifeline

Telehealth clinician Elizabeth Moffat checks on Ramiro Gutierrez of Fairfield after his successful triple bypass surgery at NorthBay Medical Center.

Some post-surgical patients will be discharged to home, but are not quite well enough to immediately resume all the activities of daily life, such as driving to their doctor’s office for follow-up appointments. Patients in this situation will still get their vital signs and progress checked every day–without leaving home–through Telehealth, a sophisticated electronic health monitoring system.

Telehealth uses medical monitoring equipment, a touch-screen monitor and telephone lines to help a patient collect their vital signs, which are then transmitted to a clinician such as Elizabeth Moffat, Telehealth clinician for NorthBay Health at Home.

Telehealth checks a patient’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, and their blood’s oxygen saturation and blood glucose levels. It can also check a patient’s weight or use a Web cam to do a wound assessment, according to Moffat. “It helps us to look for trends or abnormalities and to catch any symptoms–such as fluid retention or elevated blood pressure—early. We can then make adjustments to medications, if necessary,” she says.

These daily check-ups are particularly beneficial if the patient has diabetes, congestive heart failure or hypertension.

There are many benefits for homebound patients being followed through Telehealth, Moffat notes. “Early detection can help prevent a visit to the emergency room or even hospitalization, and it gives our patients peace of mind, because they check in with us every day, seven days a week.”

Patients typically spend 10 to 20 minutes with the machine each morning, answering general health questions on the touch-screen monitor and providing vital sign information. “The whole system is easy to use, even for those who aren’t so ‘computerliterate,'” she says. In addition to the Telehealth program, NorthBay patients also receive home visits and telephone monitoring, Moffat says.

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