FMH Med Tablet

Lisa Hogan, a Frederick Memorial Hospital Home Health nurse team leader, holds a computer tablet that the hospital supplies to some patients in their homes to monitor their vital signs and assist in their care outside the hospital.

Every morning, Kimberly Wivell helps her mother measure her blood pressure, her weight, her oxygen levels and her temperature.

The pulse oximeter, which measures oxygen levels, the blood pressure cuff and the scale all connect to a tablet. That tablet allows two health professionals at Frederick Memorial Hospital to monitor patients from their homes. Wivell texts with a nurse weekly about her mother’s vital signs, with the ability to audio or video chat if she is worried about her mother.

Having the tablet at home is a relief, Wivell said, because it means that there is someone looking out for her mother and fewer emergency department trips.

“I don’t ever want to be without it,” she said.

FMH launched the Chronic Care Management Program pilot, a program created by Lisa Hogan, chronic care management team leader, in October 2016. Through the program, patients are given 4G tablets, the blood pressure monitor, the pulse oximeter and scales. It is free of charge.

Since then, hospital readmissions for enrolled patients decreased 89 percent over a 30-day period. For those patients, emergency department visits decreased by 49 percent, according to a press release from the hospital.

Readmissions are also down for patients in the program for six months, Hogan said.

Hogan, a registered nurse, and another nurse get the vitals from the enrolled patients. If a person is doing well, the team contacts the patient weekly. If a person’s vitals look off, the nurses will text or call to learn more.

If a person does not submit vitals for two days, the team will also contact the patient to make sure everything is OK.

Currently, there are 154 patients enrolled in the program, with 50 more tablets available. The tablets are easy to use, Hogan said, adding that the oldest enrolled patient is in their 90s.

The program helps keep readmissions down, which in turn reduces hospital costs, Hogan said. The hospital’s goal is to keep people safely at home.

For Wivell, staying at home means not having to travel from Emmitsburg to Frederick. When her mother, Margaret Chesser, says she does not feel well, Wivell can take her vitals with the monitor. Chesser has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic heart failure, so a cold can make it hard for her to breathe.

Wivell said that when her mother had a cold recently, Hogan came to Wivell’s home and listened to her mother’s chest. She did not need to go to the emergency department.

This meant that Wivell’s husband did not have to take the day off, since neither Wivell nor Chesser drives, and the family did not have to spend nearly an entire day in the emergency room.

“I cannot tell you how much of a relief that is,” she said. “Instead of going in, sitting in the emergency room for hours for them to give her oxygen and then tell her, ‘You’re fine, go home.’ To have this machine here and to have Lisa backing it up is a godsend.”

For the hospital, that was also a bed that remained open for other patients and thousands of dollars saved.

Not everyone avoids a hospital trip just because they are in the Chronic Care Management Program, Hogan said. If a person’s vitals are bad enough, the team will tell a patient to come to FMH.

Patients say the program is a lifeline, Hogan said. Some of the patients are referred to the program after visiting the hospital. Others come through doctor’s offices or the health department.

Hogan said the program helps strengthen the bond between the hospital staff and their patients. Because Hogan and the nurse practitioner call every week, they get to know the patients well.

“It’s very satisfying to me to be able to talk to our patients every week and to be able to hear them say that they’re doing better,” Hogan said.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

(4) comments

sue1955

Just to clarify my statement regarding intrusiveness of one's body, I refused. Also, I cancelled the service within a couple of days, although I kept being called each day (after I cancelled) by another person. Oh, and the nurse cursed under her breath as she left after I told her to leave.

sue1955

A whole industry is in force for visiting nurses. What the article doesn't say is that these services cost a little over $20.00/day out-of-pocket (with insurance coverage). And, it is a different person every day. So, every day you have to accommodate someone coming to your home, interrupting your day, and them spending two and a half hours going over your entire medical history. They are intrusive regarding your body when it isn't necessary, also, based on what your ailment is. I am speaking from personal experience. Oh, and it's a pain to let them into your home if you are living in a controlled access building.

If people had the necessary medications at home and any equipment (e.g., oxygen for respiratory problems) that you may need for your ailment (and your doctor already knows what you require), you are better off than having somebody bother
you every day.

Of course, I realize that everybody is different and needs vary. Someone who is fairly bad off may benefit from these services.

DickD

The program sounds great, but how does the hospital save money. That part doesn't make sense. The hospital costs are going to be the same, within a few dollars whether they have a bed filled or not. What it really means is a lost customer to the hospital and the revenue that they would have gained. Of course, the insurance companies save a pile of money. Are those savings in insurance going to be passed on to the insured?

Nicki

DD - I doubt that the bed remains empty. They can fill the bed with another patient while also tending to the other one at home therefore a gain not a loss. Twofer!

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