Home monitoring reduces readmissions
Date: January 3, 2012
Safeguarding against medical errors and ensuring quality, efficient care is challenging enough when patients are in a hospital and constantly monitored by medical staff and technology. But when patients go home to continue their care, it’s quite a different matter.
To better observe patients with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and to avoid unnecessary hospital readmissions, Johns Hopkins Home Health Services started a program of remote monitoring that allows providers to react more quickly to changes in patients’ condition.
Since the start of the program a little less than a year ago, the readmission rate for these two sets of patients hit 17 percent in March and 9 percent in April, compared with Home Health Services’ overall rate of 21 percent. The majority of those who were readmitted experienced a health crisis, such as pneumonia, that was unrelated to their primary diagnosis, according to Home Care Group nurse Lou Ann Rau. (Home Health Services is a company within Johns Hopkins Home Care Group.)
The program has served roughly 250 patients since it began. Patients receive instruction in how to use the devices, if appropriate, to monitor their blood pressure, weight, blood oxygenation and glucose levels, as well as peak air flow. The daily process takes about five minutes. After the information is recorded, a disease management nurse reviews it, and special alerts are automatically sent to the nurse if any new information falls outside of acceptable parameters. When necessary, the nurse contacts physicians to adjust patients’ medications and treatments or to schedule same-day office appointments.
Rau says the system helps patients become better at recognizing signs that their condition is deteriorating and also makes them feel safer “because they have a nurse watching over them.”
The monitoring system enhances other Home Health Services safety interventions, such as visiting patients often during their first days back home to make sure that they understand their hospital discharge instructions and are following them correctly.