INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – On Christmas Eve 2018, Carl Culp and his wife were at home and looking forward to the next day. Their holiday took a bit of a turn when he passed out and he was rushed to Franciscan Health Indianapolis' emergency room. Fortunately, the episode turned out okay and was said to be related to the 85-year-old southside resident's chronic health conditions.
As he was being discharged, he was encouraged to consider using a program that has been offered by Fanciscan VNS Home Health Care for more than a decade.
Telehealth – a fusion of clinical care and technology – has enabled Franciscan VNS Home Health Care nurses to monitor patients' conditions daily and is designed to avoid hospitalization, a visit to an emergency room or an urgent care clinic. It’s a total collaboration involving patients and their doctors and nurses.
Patients with chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are given a tablet and taught by a telehealth technician how to use the equipment including a blood pressure cuff to check their blood pressure, an oximeter to check their pulse and oxygen levels, and a scale to check their weight.
The telehealth nurse works one-on-one with a patient telephonically, using a teaching or coaching approach to help the patient understand their results and when abnormal assessing for contributing factors such as. sodium, increased fluid retention and diet.
"Through this relationship, the patient learns how to manage their disease and becomes independent in recognizing when there is a change in condition and when to seek additional medical service," said Brenda Schoenherr, RN, administrative director of Home Health Hospice.
Here's how it works: The patient uses the tablet tools to take their vitals, including their blood pressure, pulse, oxygen level and weight and then the results are transmitted to a secure Franciscan telehealth portal. The nurse then evaluates the biometrics and based on the results decides if a more detailed assessment with the patient is needed via telephone. This may lead to scheduling an in-home visit or involving the patient's physician for an early intervention.
The telehealth device and process is user-friendly and most adapt immediately to the technology.
"I know how to get around a bit on the computer," said Culp, a retired jeweler and Navy combat veteran of the Korean War. "But this isn't rocket science – it only took me a few minutes to learn how to use the tablet and make adjustments as you go along."
So successful was Culp's use of the telehealth devices, he was recently discharged from the program.
Photo Caption: Carl Culp and Franciscan VNS Medical Assistant Katlyn Overbay discuss the results of his vital signs as his wife, Shirley, looks on.
By Joe Stuteville
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