Eastern North Carolina Community takes radical approach to fight two major health problems

Ahoskie 02 October 2006An innovative new programme to improve the health in one of the United States' most disadvantaged areas is underway, using in-home monitoring, in-home vital signs monitoring and telehealth kiosks in senior centres, churches and schools to fight obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The telehealth kiosk is a RemoteNurse with a swipe card feature so that patients can use a card to access their individualized programme. Kiosks allow many patients to use one monitor.

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The $360.000, three-year programme, funded by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission (HWTF), will be available to more than 40.000 residents in four counties - Bertie, Gates, Hertford, and Northampton - through Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) in Ahoskie, North Carolina.

"We are in the business of investing in families, in communities and in North Carolina", stated Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, HWTF Chair. "As a commission, it is our goal to make North Carolina the healthiest state in America. By funding important initiatives like these, we are moving closer to reaching this goal."

The Patient Provider Community Telehealth Network began in September with the placement of RemoteNurse telehealth systems, developed by WebVMC, in homes of patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In October, kiosks at local senior centres will be used to screen people for risk factors, and monitor people at risk and those requiring treatment. Later this fall, the programme expands to a Latino-based church, and in January, to the local middle school. All services are provided at no cost to patients.

With RemoteNurse, caregivers and patients can monitor risk factors on a device as easy to use as a telephone. The data is reported to the patient's doctor or nurse automatically, enabling them to observe vital medical signs daily or even more often. With chronic illnesses like CVD and diabetes, this ongoing monitoring is essential to help people stay healthy and compliant with their medical regime.

"Our region is one of the poorest in the state, with 20 percent living 100 percent below the federal poverty level, and our cardiovascular death rate is the highest in the state at 18,5 percent, and getting worse", stated Kim Schwartz, CEO of RCCHC. "With WebVMC's RemoteNurse, we can monitor hundreds or even thousands of people, without requiring them to make the trip to the doctor. By taking this technology to the community - to senior centres, to schools, and to faith-based organisations - we can track and manage people who receive no or too little medical care, and have a positive, immediate, and ongoing impact on their health status."

WebVMC provides virtual medical care using the Internet to connect patients with chronic illnesses, their caregiver, and their clinician for 24/7 disease management, from any location. Patients stay in the comfort of their own homes and communities, and also receive a health assessment and individualized education.

"In designing our technology for remote disease management, we saw a need for a system that could be used in any setting, not only home health, hospitals and assisted living facilities, but in diverse community sites and remote geographic areas as well", stated Scott Sheppard, President and CEO of WebVMC. "We made our programme interactive, easy to use, and low cost so that it can be used to manage a person's health anytime, anywhere, and by anyone."

"We selected WebVMC because their technology is software driven, their staff is service driven, the return on investment is superior to other systems, and they provide unlimited kiosk use with broadband connection with no extra charge as the number of patients increases", stated Bonnie Britton, RN, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Nursing at RCCHC. "WebVMC also provides audio tracks in several languages, including Spanish, which is important to our Latino population."

WebVMC's RemoteNurse contains many features that other systems do not offer. Clinicians can access the patient's data from any computer. If a health reading requires immediate attention, the RemoteNurse will contact the clinician right away by their preferred method of contact - phone, beeper, or e-mail. The system is multi-lingual, with symbols for patients who cannot read, and audio tracks for people who cannot see.

"We are confident that the implementation of the Patient Provider Community Telehealth Network will have a huge impact on our community, and help our medical team truly combat the health care disparities that exist in our region", stated Tim Britton, RCCHC Board Chair.

The programme is initially funded from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2009.

Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center is a not-for-profit organisation, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, committed to providing quality service and comprehensive health care, regardless of the ability to pay, to meet the needs of the rural community, including the uninsured. RCCHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike and an associate member of the NC Community Health Center Association.

The Center includes Murfreesboro Primary Care, Ahoskie Primary Care and Ahoskie Family Physicians. The goal of the Patient Provider Community Telehealth Network is to assist the HWTF to eliminate disparities for minorities with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Interconnectivity between health care providers and patients in the home, community, and school will be established to increase access to health screening, detection, intervention, and health education and to impact healthy lifestyle changes in youth to decrease obesity and complications of obesity.

The NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund makes North Carolina stronger, both physically and economically, by funding programmes that promote preventive health. Created by the General Assembly in 2000 to allocate a portion of North Carolina's share of the national tobacco settlement, HWTF has invested $127 million to support preventive health initiatives and $78 million to fund a prescription drug assistance programme.

WebVMC provides virtual health care technology using the Internet to manage care for the person with a chronic illness, connecting the patient, caregiver and clinician for 24/7 disease management from any location, in multiple health care delivery systems - home care, hospitals and assisted living facilities. With innovative capabilities, such as audio tracks, touch-screen access and instant messaging, WebVMC's products are user-friendly, comprehensive solutions that cost-effectively manage patients with chronic illnesses for better health status and better quality of life. More company news is available in the VMW September 2006 article East Alabama Medical Center selects WebVMC to provide remote disease management services for home health patients.


Leslie Versweyveld

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