Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Space Coast’s Telehealth Monitoring Program
More than 133 million Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes. Such conditions account for more than 75 percent of annual healthcare costs nationally. With the large number of baby boomers entering the healthcare system, these numbers are only expected to grow in the coming years. It is important to begin establishing effective and efficient ways to care for patients with chronic illnesses while educating them about how to manage their health. In an effort to meet the challenge, VNA Space Coast has been utilizing Telehealth monitoring.
Denise Clark, RN, BSN, CHFN, is VNA’s Cardiac Disease/Telehealth Coordinator. She is one of only 36 certified heart failure nurses in the state and is credited with introducing Telehealth monitoring to VNA’s Brevard patients. “Telehealth allows us to keep a close watch on patients and monitor them while they are in the comfort of their own home. We know the patients and what’s considered ‘normal’ for them. With Telehealth, we are able to see their vital signs every day. If something appears off, we personally give them a call or send their VNA nurse to check on them. It’s our goal to keep our patients out of the hospital, and comfortable at home,” said Denise Clark.
VNA Space Coast introduced Telehealth monitoring to Brevard County patients in 2007. Telehealth monitoring allows patients to transmit medical information securely from their home to their VNA nurse via a standard telephone line or via a wireless cellular connection. The patient, equipped with an easy-to-use monitoring system at home, is reminded to take vital readings such as pulse, weight, blood pressure and/or blood oxygen level at a specific time each day. Patients are also asked questions pertaining to their specific health conditions. The vital signs and patient responses are then accessed by a VNA nurse, who can take appropriate action if the results fall outside an acceptable range prescribed by the patient’s physician.
Home Telehealth technology can help patients with chronic diseases to become more proactive about their medical care and more compliant with the healthcare regimens prescribed by their doctor. These factors lead to improved self-management skills, enhanced independence and self esteem, and an overall increase in their quality of life. In addition, the VNA will be able to manage the health of patients more closely, which is especially beneficial to patients with chronic diseases who may regularly experience exacerbations, trips to the emergency room and re-hospitalizations without close monitoring.
VNA Space Coast’s Medical Director, James Kearney, M.D. of the Medical Associates of Brevard is an advocate for Telehealth technology. “It is important to keep hospital readmission rates low. Telehealth monitoring helps us do this by monitoring the patient when medical professionals are unavailable. If a patient wants to check their vitals at 2 a.m., their nurse or doctor is sleeping, but their Telehealth monitor is available, and will record and relay those vitals to healthcare professionals,” said Dr. Kearney.
When asked if he believes Telehealth is the future of medicine, Dr. Kearney responded, “Yes. Absolutely, I do. It allows us to continue to carefully monitor with a nurse, who carefully monitors a patient even though they are at home. This allows their nurse to get daily updates, and the patient to interact with the physician from the comfort of their own home.”
Since 2000, VNA Space Coast has been providing home healthcare services throughout Brevard County. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the organization also provides community wellness services such as flu vaccinations, no-cost blood pressure/blood sugar screenings, speakers on health-related topics for local community groups, and attends and sponsors several health expos throughout Brevard County. VNA Space Coast is affiliated with VNA of the Treasure Coast in Indian River County, which has been serving their community for over 40 years.
For more information about Telehealth or VNA services, call 321-752-7550 or visit Vnatc.com.