Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the emphasis on healthcare in the U.S. has shifted towards the importance of preventive care as a way of improving the health of the population and avoiding costly hospitalizations. Now, Phelps Memorial Hospital Center has taken an important step to achieve this objective by launching a “telehealth” program that extends the continuum of care into the homes of patients who need support managing chronic conditions or are at risk for repeated hospitalizations. Phelps is the only hospital in Westchester to offer this service, in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Hudson Valley.
Studies show that up to 20 percent of hospital inpatients are re-admitted within 30 days of discharge due to exacerbations of congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes. The purpose of the telehealth program is to prevent avoidable re-hospitalizations and support a patient’s ability to age-in-place safely, responsibly and independently.
Using equipment installed in a patient’s home, biometric assessments (including blood pressure, pulse oximetry and weight) are captured and wirelessly transmitted to the telehealth department at the VNA, where these vital signs are reviewed and changes in the patient’s health status are noted. If an abnormal result is found, a telehealth nurse contacts the patient to determine the cause and follows up with the patient’s primary care provider, if necessary. If the nurse discovers that the patient has not been taking medication as prescribed, for example, or is eating foods that are prohibited due to a medical condition, patient education on these topics can take place instantly.
Karen Giordano of Elmsford has high blood pressure and finds the telehealth system easy to use. “I would highly recommend it to other people. By looking at my numbers (vital signs) every day, it keeps me aware of my health and I become an active participant in my own health.” Every week Ms. Giordano checks in via a “video chat” with telehealth nurse Anne Cusack, RN, BSN. “Anne also calls me immediately if one of my numbers is not what it is supposed to be,” says Ms. Giordano. “I don’t get out much, so I love chatting on the video chat.”
“Telehealth helps patients self-manage their chronic or newly diagnosed conditions, and gives them extra clinical support so they can be more independent,” says Judith Sapione, RN, clinical quality manager for Phelps Medical Associates, the hospital’s primary and specialty care medical group, who is overseeing the program. “Patients really feel like they’re in control of their health. Especially for those who are very frail, or have multiple chronic conditions, it’s a real support and comfort knowing that they’re being monitored so closely.”
According to Sapione, with the early intervention made possible by telehealth, a patient knows when his condition warrants a visit to his physician, and he is less likely to wait until he becomes so ill that he needs to go to the emergency room. “We’ve already experienced the benefits of this program. Several of our patients required intervention and their care was managed in a timely way, achieving a better outcome as a result,” says Sapione.
Participants in the six-month pilot program are patients of Phelps Medical Associates physicians. Telehealth services are being offered free of charge to participants, thanks to a generous donation from the William Olson Memorial Fund.
About Phelps Hospital
Phelps Hospital, part of Northwell Health, is a full-service 238-bed acute care community hospital located in Sleepy Hollow, NY. With more than 1,700 employees and 500 medical staff members representing 60 medical specialties, Phelps offers one of the broadest ranges of community hospital services in Westchester County. Patients benefit from distinguished physicians, many of whom are pioneers in their field, offering the most advanced procedures using the latest technology. www.phelpshospital.org. Phelps’ primary and specialty care medical group, Phelps Medical Associates, has nearly 20 practices located on the hospital campus and in the surrounding communities. www.phelpsmedicalassociates.org.
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, nearly 700 outpatient facilities and more than 18,500 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 68,000 employees – 16,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.