‘Our patients want to engage, learn and be able to manage their own health’
ROCHESTER, N.H. – Telehealth has been touted as a way to improve access and efficiency. It has also been shown to help address a critical shortage of nurses by extending their reach and patient capacity.
Anne Carle, a nurse with Cornerstone VNA, was recently honored by Health Recovery Solutions for her work as a pioneer in the telehealth space and shared how the technology is changing the way she delivers care.
HHTN: How is telehealth impacting the way you care for your patients?
CARLE:Thanks to telehealth monitoring our patients’ needs for nursing visits, emergency department visits and readmission rates have decreased, which has resulted in a cost savings. We know our patients want to engage, learn and be able to manage their own health. Currently the national hospital readmission rate for home health patients is 15.9%, while the New Hampshire rate is 17.3%. Our hospital readmission rates have maintained at 15% as an agency, and last year the hospital readmission rate for our 191 telehealth patients was significantly lower than the state and national average at 6.3%.
HHTN:How does a typical telehealth program for a patient work?
CARLE:We provide a Samsung 4G tablet to the patient, as well as a digital blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter machine and digital scale. Every morning when a patient completes their vital signs and weight, those readings are immediately transmitted back to my office where I can closely monitor, through a web portal, on a daily basis for irregularities. Patients are also asked questions each morning that are designed according to their care plan that is set up on the tablet. If a patient is showing irregularities I immediately triage the patient by conducting a full view assessment using a video conferencing call and schedule a nursing visit if needed. I notify the patient’s doctor and follow up with new orders. As part of my telehealth nursing role I also track any medication changes, new medication orders and teach best medication practices, and I encourage patients to access educational videos on the tablet specific to their chronic condition.
HHTN:How do your patients benefit from your use of telehealth to treat them?
CARLE:Telehealth monitoring provides the tools that are needed for a patient to engage and better manage their own symptoms. By learning to manage their chronic disease, a patient can often remain at home with their loved ones.
HHTN: What are the best features of telehealth?
CARLE:The best features are the education videos and video conferencing. The videos become an important education tool in getting the patient to engage and to learn how to better manage their health, which often results in them regaining their quality of life and remaining in their home. Video conferencing connects you with a patient and allows you to build trust and provide a sense of security, as well as allowing for full body assessments. With telehealth we are able to more closely monitor and educate high-risk chronic patients, decreasing ER visits and readmissions, and increasing cost effectiveness.
HHTN:What are some remaining challenges to a wider adoption of telehealth by the health care industry?
CARLE:Some physicians still don’t trust the accuracy of telehealth equipment and prefer manual readings. There is an uncertainty of adopting and accepting new technology in the health care industry, and questions by physicians of telehealth’s reliability, cost effectiveness and benefit for the patient. As a telehealth nurse for the past six years, I know that our telehealth monitoring system has been nothing but reliable and cost effective, and patients have expressed how easy the tablet is to navigate and use as a comprehensive education tool.