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Telehealth Contributing to Better Health Care

May 08, 2008

Telehealth, using telecommunication technology to deliver health care, is consistently used to improve the delivery and availability of health care services to patients. A researcher with the University of Missouri found that intervention had positive results.


This researcher discovered that patients who received a telehealth intervention from care providers experienced significantly delayed hospital readmission rates when compared to patients who received only traditional care.

“Telehealth interventions have the potential to allow for earlier detection of key clinical symptoms, triggering early intervention from providers and reducing the need for patient hospitalization,” said Bonnie Wakefield, professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, in a Thursday statement. “Reducing the length and frequency of hospital stays can lower healthcare costs for patients and hospitals, which helps patients manage their diseases and ultimately feel better.”

To better understand the relationship between the use of technology and patient-provider interactions, Wakefield evaluated the effectiveness of a telehealth home-based intervention in patients with heart failure.

These patients were randomly selected to receive follow-up by telephone or videophone after hospitalization for heart failure. Wakefield noted that previous research on traditional clinic visits found that quality patient-provider relationships can improve patient satisfaction, adherence to treatment, clinical outcomes and understanding of information.
 
“Telehealth does not necessarily change the care providers give. Rather, it changes the communication channel between clinicians and patients to minimize geographic barriers and enhance delivery of service,” Wakefield said. “According to patients, it is not important how the interaction happens, but just that it happens. People who suffer from chronic illnesses usually wait three to six months between office appointments with their care providers.”
 
“With video and telephone technology, nurses have the ability to interact regularly with patients and provide a sense of security. Patients discuss concerns on a frequent basis, and nurses give advice and detect problems that the patient might not notice,” added Wakefield.

Wakefield highlighted that it is critical to accurately match technologies to patient needs. Further evaluation is needed to determine which patients may benefit most from specific telehealth applications and which technologies are most cost effective.
 
 “Although older patients may not be accustomed to using technology, it doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to learn,” Wakefield said. “Older patients feel they are contributing to society and education by testing innovative technology. They appreciate when health care professionals take time to invest in their well-being”
 
The study, “Home Telehealth for Heart Failure,” is set to be published in the Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health.

Wakefield’s study sheds light on key areas of opportunity where technology can be used to improve a patient’s recovery and shorten downtime after hospitalization. Such findings will not only lead to new explorations within the health community, it will also contribute to new applications that will be available in the industry to address these specific issues. Such advancements will be a positive addition for the healthcare industry, and new revenue opportunities for vendors.
 
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for ContactCenterSolutions and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
 

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