When the 68-year-old woman first became a telehealth
patient, her blood pressure readings were normal. Over
time, however, they started to trend upward.
Fortunately, the patient’s FirstHealth Home Care nurse
quickly detected the change in her condition, contacted
her doctor and arranged a change to her medication that
didn’t involve a trip to the doctor’s office or to the hospital.
Often heralded as the wave of the future for home
health care, the closely monitored technology of
telehealth helps chronically ill patients stay at home,
where they want to be, and out of the hospital. Using
simple, easy-to-understand computer technology,
these patients or their caregivers transmit specific
health information over a home telephone line to a
centralized monitoring station where it is read by a
Home Care professional.
Changes to a patient’s condition are noted, and appropriate
follow-up is scheduled.
An important goal of home health care involves reducing
hospital admissions and emergency room visits. During
its five-year history, FirstHealth’s telehealth service has done
that while benefiting more than 3,000 patients in Moore,
Montgomery, Richmond, Scotland, Lee and Hoke counties.
“When we first started imagining the possible benefits
of telehealth monitoring for home care, we had no idea
that we would be making a difference for so many patients,”
says Patty Upham, director of FirstHealth Home
Telehealth monitoring not only enables the Home Care
staff to stay closely connected to patients who are in their
homes, but it also helps patients understand how to better
manage their own health.
“As patients or caregivers send us the information each
day, they begin to recognize how simple actions make a
difference in their health,” Upham says. “They make the
connection between the country ham biscuit they ate for
breakfast and their elevated blood pressure. One of the
unexpected advantages of telehealth is the educational opportunity
it provides for our patients and their families.”
FirstHealth’s telehealth service uses equipment provided
by ViTel Net of McLean, Va.
For more information on FirstHealth Home Care or its telehealth
program, call (800) 213-3284.
A three-year, $750,000 Telehealth
Network Grant from the
U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (DHHS) will
enable FirstHealth’s telehealth
monitoring service to reach more
patients than ever.
The DHHS funding will allow
the program to add at least 50
monitoring units and support the
addition of three employees to the
telehealth staff: a coordinator, a
community liaison and a technician
“To optimize this service, we are
networking with the FirstHealth
emergency departments and
Family Care Centers, area health
departments and the Moore Free
Care Clinic,” says Patty Upham,
director of FirstHealth Home Care
Services. “When we work as a
team, our patients score. It’s a winning
FirstHealth’s telehealth service began with a pilot program funded by the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation. The pilot
worked so well that FirstHealth and the Foundation then partnered to buy 18 telehealth units and four digital camera
kits to be used for wound assessment.
In the summer of 2006, a $250,000 grant awarded through The Duke Endowment allowed FirstHealth to acquire 70
additional monitoring units and four more high-resolution digital cameras. Funds also helped with the employment of a
full-time telehealth nurse coordinator to manage the program.
According to Kathleen Stockham, president of the Foundation of FirstHealth, the success of FirstHealth’s telehealth
program is due in no small part to the support it has received from the Foundation.
“This program is an example of how our Foundation members’ investments affect the quality of life and health in our
communities,” says Stockham. “We provide the dollars that support the ideas and nurture them into sustainable, successful
programs that make a real difference. Our initial $20,000 investment has reaped great returns for our patients. The
outcomes speak for themselves.”