A review published in 2014 by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found telemedicine to be beneficial for monitoring patients with chronic conditions.
The main benefits of telemedicine in managing chronic conditions include:
- Reductions in use of services
- Reduced hospital admissions and readmissions
- Shorter hospital stays
- Fewer emergency department visits
In many cases there were also reductions in mortality. The concept that monitoring chronic conditions with telemedicine is beneficial makes sense on its face. It saves time on the part of both patients and healthcare providers, and is less expensive. Not having to take several hours out of a day to visit a specialist leaves patients freer to live their lives and makes things easier on family members and hired caregivers. Here are 6 types of chronic condition patients who can benefit from telemedicine.
- Congestive Heart Failure Patients
A study by Geisinger Health Plan of the use of telemedicine with congestive heart failure patients found that telemedicine reduced hospital admissions significantly. Furthermore, the return on every dollar invested in telemedicine was $3.30 in savings. The study followed more than 500 patients with congestive heart failure over a period of four years. Patients used Bluetooth-enabled scales and completed interactive voice surveys about symptoms, with the goal of detecting problems before they could become severe. Results were transmitted in near-real time to care teams.
Results were impressive. The chances of being admitted to the hospital in a given month were 23% lower in telemedicine-enabled patients. The chances of hospital readmission within 30 days dropped by 44%, and the chances of readmission within 90 days dropped by 38%.
- Stroke Patients
A study is currently underway by doctors at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) of stroke patients returning home after hospitalization. The study, called STEP-TO-IT is designed to prevent future strokes in patients who live more than 75 miles away from specialized follow-up care. Designed by a registered nurse, the study is engineered to prevent post-stroke patients from falling through the cracks in terms of follow-up care. Without telemedicine, some patients don’t bother with follow-up care, and so don’t manage risk factors effectively.
The STEP-TO-IT program monitors post-stroke patient risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking habits, diet, and exercise. Doctors are also able to use telemedicine to conduct neurological tests while patients remain in their own homes. Patients, particularly those who live far from follow-up care, are enthusiastic about the program and find that it fits in with their lifestyles, allowing them to enjoy life while getting the care they need.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Patients
COPD is caused by chronic airflow blockage that restricts breathing and is a condition that significantly affects functioning. An estimated 65 million people worldwide have moderate to severe COPD, and effective management of the condition requires regular monitoring and reduction of risk factors for exacerbating the condition (like smoking and air pollution). Studies of telemedicine in management of COPD in the European Union have found that use of telemedicine can prevent hospitalization and makes caregivers’ jobs easier as well.
A 2014 Dutch study integrating tailored telemedicine self-management into primary care for COPD patients involved patient coaching by nurses in COPD management, a web-based self-management portal, and regular interaction between patients and nurses. Results were positive in terms of both disease management and cost savings.
- Diabetes Patients
Diabetes patients in North Carolina are now able to use telemedicine to help primary care physicians manage their care better. Results have included tighter glucose control, reduction in hospitalizations, and better prevention of diabetic complications. Primary care physician Hilary Canipe says, “Having this technology in the home has been such an advantage for my patients. I can talk with them more accurately about their problems because I have this additional information. They feel more connected and have more control of their disease.”
Every morning, patients enrolled in the program weigh themselves, check their pulse, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and oxygen saturation. Then they answer questions on a handheld computer, which then transmits results to nurses. Nurses are able to observe numerous patients more easily, and patients can fine-tune medications and diet to prevent complications and the need for office visits.
- Patients With High Blood Pressure
A study of telemedicine and Italian patients with high blood pressure was reported in 2014 and found that home blood pressure monitoring compared with having blood pressure monitored at physicians’ offices improved control of blood pressure and allowed quicker treatment adjustments when necessary. This study involved coordination by trained nursing staff, who monitored patients and notified physicians immediately when blood pressure readings strayed out of the acceptable range. Nurses also provided patients with lifestyle, diet, exercise, and smoking advice.
Patients participating in the study experienced feelings of greater control and complied better with medical instructions compared to those who did not use telemedicine. Researchers believe that telemedicine could decrease the number of hypertension patients who are being treated but who nevertheless experience problems controlling their blood pressure.
- Patients With Depression
Telemedicine can be used in monitoring and managing mental health, as a recent study of older low-income adults with depression shows. In this case, telemedicine was used to deliver problem-solving therapy (PST) to 121 homebound adults age 50 and older who were diagnosed with depression. Other participants engaged in in-person PST and another group had telephone support call sessions to compare delivery methods. The tele-PST sessions were conducted by Skype video call.
The patients who engaged in tele-PST treatment scored slightly higher on their Treatment Evaluation Inventory (TEI) evaluations than those who received PST in person. Both groups of PST patients had lower depression scores than those who received telephone support calls, and these effects were still in evidence when a 24-week follow-up was conducted.
Telemedicine can be extremely valuable in monitoring a wide range of chronic health conditions, making life easier on patients, reducing hospital admissions, and saving money. At eDrugstore.com we applaud these telemedicine initiatives because we understand the many benefits of providing medications at a distance. Over 15-plus years, eDrugstore.com has provided prescription medications to over half a million customers, with quick shipping, competitive prices, and outstanding commitment to customer privacy and online security.
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