VNS began a home telehealth demonstration project funded by the Rural Utilities Office of the United States Department of Agriculture, one year ago in response to the needs of chronically ill elders within southern Maine and New Hampshire. Mia Millefoglie, Chief Business Development Officer for the VNS, stated: "There exists an intense need to augment the productivity of the scarce clinical resources to address our area's rapidly growing, aging, rural and chronically ill patient base. Our project uses home telehealth technology by American TeleCare Inc. to monitor some of the area's most frail and at-risk elders."
The American TeleCare system features live audio and video combined with a telephonic stethoscope and other medical peripherals including a blood pressure meter, scale, and pulse oximeter, to allow nurses to conduct a "video visit" to homebound patients. The nurse and patient can see and talk to each other while the nurse gathers objective and subjective information, allowing a timely clinical assessment of patient status. If a problem is identified, the nurse can intervene rapidly, preventing a worsening of the condition.
A highlight of the VNS's fundraising event was the remote health assessment of Senator Collins utilising the American TeleCare home telehealth system. She was able to see firsthand the benefits that remote patient monitoring brings to the lives of chronically ill patients. Both the senator and the nurse were able to see and hear each other via the telehealth system while she gave the senator instructions and received her vital signs measurements on her computer screen.
"This way of delivering health care brings enormous benefit to sick, elderly, isolated patients with limited access to a health care facility", noted Senator Collins, "Telehealth enables thousands of our most frail and vulnerable elder persons to avoid hospitals and nursing homes and stay right where they want to be, in the comfort and security of their own homes. In addition, telehealth clearly provides answers to many of the stresses on our resource-strapped health care system."
An avid and vocal advocate for home care especially for those who are disabled, elderly, and at risk of institutionalisation, Senator Collins was a distinguished guest at the event. In addition to the "Spirit of Caring" award, she was presented with the Claude Pepper award by the National Association for Home Care in September of 2001 in recognition for her tireless efforts on behalf of home care and hospice patients, and the home health care agencies that serve them. Senator Collins serves on the Committee on Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions, as well as the Special Committee on Aging.
The VNS plans to move the project from a pilot phase to full implementation with another grant from the Rural Utilities Office in the near future. Of her decision to utilise American TeleCare's telehealth technology and implementation services, Mia Millefoglie stated: "We evaluated several technologies on the market and felt that the ability to conduct a live, face-to-face visit and collect vital signs was of critical importance to our patient population, many of whom reside a considerable distance from health care access. American TeleCare has the right system for our patients, and their knowledge of the industry and support has helped us tremendously. We are committed to enhancing our ability to deliver care to our patients with telehealth."
Visiting Nurse Service of Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire (VNS) is a leading, independent, not for profit organisation providing a full range of medical and nursing services to patients and families in their homes. VNS offers speciality care services to include hospice, telehealth, paediatrics, and community health care. VNS is fully licensed, Medicare certified and accredited by CHAP.
American TeleCare Inc. pioneered the concept of home telehealth in 1993. The company markets the AVIVA System, an FDA-cleared telemedicine monitoring system that incorporates live audio/video with integrated electronic medical peripherals to allow a clinician to conduct remote examinations of patients in their homes. American TeleCare has installed the majority of home telehealth programmes throughout the world, and is the recognised industry leader. More news on American Telecare is available in the VMW August 2002 article American TeleCare and Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center demonstrate telehealth technology in Idaho.