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FirstHealth Representatives Participate in Capitol Hill Briefing

| Date Posted: 12/29/2011

PINEHURST – Two members of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Home Care Services staff participated in a recent Washington, D.C., legislative briefing and panel discussion on “How Telehealth and the FITT Act Can Transform Healthcare.”

Connie Christopher, R.N., and Patty Upham, R.N.

Connie Christopher, R.N., and Patty Upham, R.N., (second and third from left), of FirstHealth Home Care Services, participated in a recent Capitol Hill  legislative briefing and panel discussion on telehealth and its impact on health care.

The event was hosted by Sen. Amy Klobucher (D-Minn) and held Dec. 5 in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. Sponsors were Philips Telehealth Solutions, the National Association of Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and its affiliated Home Care Technology Association of America. Panel discussion participants included Patty Upham, R.N., director, FirstHealth Home Care Services; and Connie Christopher, R.N., associate director, FirstHealth Home Care Services.

Sen. Klobucher and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) co-sponsored the Fostering Independence through Technology (FITT) Act of 2011, which, if approved by Congress, could help improve health care by enabling more home health agencies to adopt home-monitoring technologies.

FirstHealth Home Care Services has been a leader in the technology since introducing its telehealth service in a pilot program funded by the Foundation of FirstHealth almost a decade ago. Subsequent grants from the Foundation, The Duke Endowment and the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services have funded additional monitors and staffing allowing the service to expand throughout the six-county FirstHealth Home Care coverage area.

During the recent Capitol Hill discussion, Upham called telehealth a “key component” of FirstHealth Home Care’s chronic disease care model, one that allows patients to remain at home while reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency care.

Noting that Telehealth improves quality of care, she pointed out that FirstHealth patients who received the service over the most recent quarter have a 14 percent hospitalization rate while those who do not have the service have a 26 percent hospitalization rate.

Christopher shared patient stories demonstrating the impact of monitoring technology, telling the Capitol Hill group that 92 percent of telehealth patients report increased peace of mind and 92 percent indicate that the monitoring equipment made them feel more involved with their care.

The hour-long legislative briefing was moderated by Richard Brennan, vice president of Technology Policy and Government Affairs for NAHC and provided perspectives from clinicians, patients and caregivers on their work with telehealth. In addition to Upham and Christopher, panel discussion participants included Ray Darcey, CEO, Sentara Enterprises; and Suzanne Mintz, President and Founder of the National Family Care Givers Association.

“FirstHealth has been very fortunate to build our successful telehealth program with grant funds including the Foundation of FirstHealth, The Duke Endowment and HRSA,” says Upham. “The FITT Act will allow other home health agencies to invest in this valuable technology by providing incentives.”

State Patient Summit Will Also Feature FirstHealth’s Upham

Patty Upham, R.N., director of FirstHealth Home Care Services, will be one of the speakers during the upcoming NC Partnership for Patients Summit in Greensboro.

The event will begin Jan. 12, 2012, with a Physician to Physician Dinner Meeting that will allow physicians from across North Carolina to engage in discussions about issues, opportunities and innovations for improving care transitions in North Carolina.

As part of a full day of Summit activities on Jan. 13, Upham will speak on “Creating Partnerships across the Health Care System” during a session called “Innovative Practice Highlights from Community Care North Carolina.” Tammie McLean, director, Community Care of the Sandhills will also take part in the program.

The NC Partnership for Patients Summit will bring together hospital leaders, employers, physicians, nurses, patient advocates, and home and community-based long-term services providers along with other community organizations in an effort to improve health care outcomes and promote well-being for residents of North Carolina.


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