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High-Tec Health Care

June 20, 2005, 11:59 PM by Cathy McLeer

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Patients can check their blood pressure, weight or oxygen levels without ever leaving their homes. And home health care nurses can check in on their patients without leaving the office. A device no bigger than an alarm clock is revolutionizing home health care in urban and rural america.

A little more than a month ago, Harold Bailey had a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heartbeat.

Bailey says, "My heart was beating a little over 100 beats a minute...after I had some heart surgery, now it's 60 beats a minute or less."

Thanks to a device, no bigger than an alarm clock, Bailey gets a daily reassurance things are running like clock work. Each morning at 9 o'clock, it tells Bailey to step on the scale, and check his blood pressure among other things.

Bailey says, "It's so easy it gives you the instructions, tells you what to do and what not to do it's a very unique little deal i appreciate it."  After following the instructions, his vital stats are sent directly to a computer at a remote location, where the information is read by a home health nurse.

Judy Rall, Director of Home Health Care at Good Samaritan in Sioux Falls says, "And, once a day a clinicianer looks at the readings and is able to determine whether they are outside the accepted range or the parameters the physicians set. and we contact the physican or the patient to discuss the findings."

Rall says the tool helps her provide better care to her home health care clients.  "We are not looking at making less home health visits, removing the patient contact we're looking at making more appropriate visits."

Which is a huge benefit in rural areas.  She says, "When people live in rural America they have much less access to health care, these monitors are global, they can go anywhere you have a phone line."
 
By keeping daily tabs on even slight changes in a patient's vital statistics, Rall says the technology is also helping control health care costs.  "The idea with the tele-health monitors is it reduces emergency room visits, and hospitalizations, we're catching something before it becomes a crisis," says Rall. 

Not only is this device providing better access to health care, and cutting health care costs; something unexpected happens when clients bring the monitors into their homes. They become more proactive in their own health care.

Rall says, "Once they get it in their home they really take some owner ship, in looking at their numbers. and reading what their weight is doing, and what they're blood pressure is doing most of them record them them selves and notify us before we're even getting a chance to notify them that they're weight is going up."

Bailey says it's nice knowing someone is checking in on him every day, and he has a little peace of mind knowing his ticker is on track. "That's something I appreciate knowing that it's staying in those limits instead of being so fast."

Good Samaritan offers the service in Sioux Falls, and recently expanded the program to the DeSmet area.

Some insurance companies cover the cost of the device, and medicare approved home health care also covers the cost. Good Samaritain has also received a grant from the Sioux Falls Community Foundation to provide the service for clients who aren't covered by insurance or Medicare.

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