Sentara Home Care Services was the first agency in the region to introduce telemedicine into the home. The telehealth program equips patients with two-way audiovisual monitors and equipment to measure blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood glucose and weight. Our telehealth program allows home care nurses located miles away to conduct virtual visits in patients’ homes. These frequent checkups have contributed to a decrease in emergency room visits and hospital overnight stays.
The telehealth program monitors patients with a variety of medical needs and diseases, including asthma, congestive heart failure and high-risk pregnancy
. The ViTel Care™ Turtle, a small computer unit shaped like a turtle, is used exclusively by Sentara Home Care Services
and gives patients the ability to easily perform important measurements.
Patients enrolled in telehealth answer clinically reviewed questions specific to their condition with a touch-screen monitor. Within minutes, they electronically transmit this information to a home care nurse – all from the comfort of their home. Through a combination of in-home visits and telehealth encounters, Sentara’s home care nurses are able to identify worsening conditions early and notify physicians in time to avert hospital or ER admissions. The telehealth program has been very successful.
During a pilot study of congestive heart failure
patients enrolled in the telehealth program, hospital readmissions decreased by 81 percent during the first six months of patients being on the program. Hospital days for this patient population dropped 87 percent.
Telehealth program encounters also continue to be instrumental for patients with asthma
, as evidenced by dramatically fewer school absences (a 63 percent drop in a two-year period) and a decrease of ER visits (a 70 percent drop).