Margaret Conley is a woman who was used to living independently until being hospitalized for a cardiac-related disease. Her hospitalization lasted five months, and when she was discharged, she needed visiting nurses to provide skilled nursing care in her home.

Patient Stories - TelehealthAlthough a nurse went to her home twice a week to care for her and her sister lived in the same apartment building, Margaret was somewhat apprehensive about living alone.

Her visiting nurse recognized that Margaret would be a perfect candidate for VNA of Care New England's Telehealth program. The Telehealth program involves an in-home monitoring system that is supervised remotely by nurses at the VNA of Care New England's main offices. It supplements the nurse's visits to Margaret's home.

This Telehealth program is a level above other remote monitoring systems because it has an educational component that helps patients manage their disease and modify their behavior.

Every morning Margaret uses a small electronic monitor to check her vital signs which are then transmitted to the main monitoring system. She also answers a series of questions relevant to her specific medical concerns.

Nurses at VNA of Care New England then examine the vital signs readings and answers to the educational questions. The nurses are able to see certain subtle changes before they become real symptoms. They can also view a two-week memory which provides a history of the machine readings. These readings can be transmitted an emergency room in the event of an emergency and can come in handy when updating her doctor on her history.

In fact, the Telehealth system worked very well for Margaret a few weeks after she was discharged from the hospital when she exhibited an episode of atrial fibrillation, or abnormally quick heartbeat. Nurses at VNA of Care New England were able to observe the abnormal heartbeat and worked with Margaret's doctor to adjust her medications and diet to keep her out of the hospital.

"Now I know to watch for that," said Conley. "Before, the whole thing was new to me."

The Telehealth systems can be used for patients with a wide variety of health concerns, from cardiac-related problems to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to diabetes, and, in the future, mental health disease. Telehealth machines can be personalized and come with provisions for the hearing impaired as well as Spanish-speaking patients.