May 13, 2008

Doctors Reinvent the House Call

A recent State University of New York study found that patients using telemedicine to manage congestive heart failure experienced a reduction in overall health care costs of 41 percent. Reduced physician office visits alone saved more than $115 million annually.

Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S) at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (CPMC) and SUNY Upstate Medical University have received a $28-million grant to bring health care into the homes of under-served rural and inner-city residents with diabetes.

Telemedicine can give people the tools they need to take control of their health. The system will empower people to take better care of themselves through monitoring, access to information, and education. This ‘house call’ of the future will allow patients and clinicians to reach out across any distance for care.

Participants will receive Internet service, training in equipment use, and maintenance support. Patients will check their blood sugar, blood pressure and other factors that affect diabetes. They’ll be able to view their own medical information, learn more about diabetes and receive recommendations and instructions on how to manage their disease.

Decision support systems will play a crucial role, and an automated care guideline system will analyze each patient’s data. If information recorded on the computer varies from predetermined values, an automated alert will be sent to the physician or nurse. The system also will provide suggestions and reminders to patients about what steps they need to take to maintain good health.

Columbia’s Center for Advanced Technology coordinated the participation of companies including American Telecare, which is providing the special home-based units, and Bell Atlantic, which will serve as the telecommunications carrier.

We’ve come a long way from, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

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