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Verizon and United Way partner with Home Nursing Agency to bring Telehealth technology

Home Nursing Agency is one of 30 home health agencies throughout Pennsylvania participating in a Telehealth Project, which is the use of modern technology to transmit medical data over telephone wires.
By partnering with Verizon and United Way of Blair County, the Home Nursing Agency will make this new technology available to residents living in rural areas as a result of the $14,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, which partners nationwide with organizations that support education, literacy, health and human services and community technology development.
“Verizon is committed to funding innovative technology programs like Home Nursing Agency’s Telehealth Project. Traditionally, high-tech projects of this nature are piloted in metropolitan and suburban locales and we’re thrilled this type of technology is happening in the rural communities we serve,” said Ed Donahoe, Verizon’s Pennsylvania director.
Locally, Donahoe said Verizon has nearly 350 employees, who have given very generously over the years to the noble causes of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations like the United Way.
On a national spectrum, Donahoe said Verizon employees would earn more than $12 million dollars this year in grants for nonprofits where they also volunteer their time and financial resources – making Verizon one of the largest supporters of employee volunteerism in the world.
Kay Johnson, executive director of the United Way of Blair County, said Telehealth represents a program that aims to “take charge” of the health care needs in outlying areas of our communities and will be a tremendous benefit.
“Over the past five years, Verizon has sustained their contributions to our campaign and have become a strategic partner for innovative technology programs,” said Johnson.
Through the Telehealth unit, a patient can transmit blood pressure readings, weight, heart rhythm and other information to a nurse from the comfort of home over the telephone line. This enables the nurse to provide services more extensively through more frequent contact and closer management.
Home Nursing Agency is helping to launch Telehealth by also partnering with the Pennsylvania Homecare Association and Penn State University in utilizing a $250,000 federal grant obtained through the assistance of Sen. Arlen Specter to research how Telehealth impacts nursing retention and recruitment while addressing the challenges of aging residents have an increasing demand for healthcare.
The agency began piloting the Telehealth Project in December of 2002.
Home Nursing Agency is taking a new approach to the Home Telehealth Project by collaborating with VitelNet Inc. in McLean, Va., an innovative leader in Telehealth technology. As a result, a more customized and personalized project has evolved that should prove easier to use by both the agency’s patients and nurses.
For example, information from vital sign devices and other measuring tools can be sent to the agency’s nursing stations via touch screen monitors, operated by the patient. Built into the software are means for programming reminders and other personalized, detailed messages to be sent to patients at specific times such as: How do you feel today? How is your breathing?
“Our nurses have the ability to change the devices connected to the unit and have written a set of 10 questions that allow patients to grade themselves by answering, ‘same/better/worse/none’ as opposed to just a ‘yes or no’ answer,” said Telemedicine Project Coordinator Kim Lee, RN, MSN.
All of these customized attributes upgrade the communication level and target where care is needed. By involving agency nurses with workstation capability development is an important step toward making Home Telehealth successful, Lee said.
“We are very proud to be part of this research project. Our nurses are dedicated professionals who have always been innovative and interested in keeping up with latest procedures and technologies,” said Bob Packer, president and chief executive officer of Home Nursing Agency.
“By offering our clinical staff state-of-the-art technology, we can improve their patients’ conditions while giving them the opportunity to have a hand in developing a project like Telehealth. We believe we can enhance career satisfaction as well as patient outcomes,” Packer said.
Many families turn to homecare agencies who help care for individuals with such diseases as congestive heart failure or diabetes by providing nurses who visit patients in their homes two or three times a week.
According to Lee, a sensible way to approach is to initially limit Home Telehealth contact to a specific chronic disease group – congestive heart failure patients.
Currently, the agency serves as many as 60 CHF patients at any given time, which is among the most frequent home care primary diagnosis. Large numbers of Home Telehealth studies have reported improved outcomes with this group.
These projects have clear goals and steps; help CHF patients limit weight gain and avoid costly hospitalization while giving more frequent directives and tracking patients’ weight maintenance in their first 90 days of living with the disease.
With sons and daughters frequently living great distances from their aging parents, the difficult question of how will we care for our aging parents is on the minds of millions of Americans. They will be looking for resources to help their aging loved ones remain in their homes for as long as possible.
Currently, more than two million of Pennsylvania’s 12 million residents are age 60 or older and by 2020 the over-60 group will exceed 25 percent of the population. As Pennsylvanians get older, the demand for healthcare services will grow but the number of nurses will decrease. It is estimated that by 2010, 40 percent of nurses will be age 50 or older.
For more information on Home Nursing Agency’s Telehealth Project, please call 1-800-445-6262.