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One„of the largest privately owned ambulance agencies in the country is making strides to become the largest tele-health provider as well. In the age of digital technology and wireless communications, the ability to transmit vital information across the miles is being implemented on the patient side of health care.„

Acadian Telehealth Monitoring, a subsidiary of Acadian Ambulance Service, has partnered with home-health agencies to provide in-home monitoring for patients with concerns of all shapes and sizes. ˙The whole purpose of tele-health is to decrease re-hospitalization rates and emergent care visits,Ó says Faye Bryant, Telehealth nurse manager. ˙We want to allow patients to heal at home.Ó„

The model Acadian has developed began with a positive relationship with home-health agencies that were asking about such a service. After about a year of research, Acadian decided on the Viterion TeleHealthcare LLC Web-based technology for its project.

The program went live in January and the response has been positive, says Levan Doucet, a paramedic and Telehealth analyst for Acadian. He likens this program to walking into a nursing home with a blood pressure cuff. ˙At first people don_t want to have their blood pressure checked, but after a few do, others stand in line,Ó he says. ˙Everyone wants reassurance that they_re OK.Ó

The technology itself comes via a monitor that_s placed in a patient_s home. The home-health agency rents it from Acadian because the units are very costly, says Bryant, and a lot of agencies can_t afford them. ˙By absorbing that cost and assisting them, many more agencies can be in tele-health,Ó she says.

The agency determines which of its patients have a need for in-home monitoring of data, such as blood pressure, blood glucose, body weight, blood oxygen, pain levels and temperature. Home-health representatives, in correspondence with the patient_s doctor, decide which tests are appropriate and individual parameters deemed satisfactory.

The patient uses the monitor to perform these tests on themselves. After the patient performs the tests, the monitor transmits the information to the server to be analyzed by Telehealth analysts, says Bryant. Depending on the results and acceptable high or low levels for a patient, a response is enacted. This could range from a call to the patient to have them retest the vital sign or to the home-health agency to inform them of the patient_s status. ˙Ultimately if it_s found to be a true, critical alert, our responsibility is to contact the agency so they can assess the patient and go from there,Ó says Bryant.

This program allows patients to have a ˙big brotherÓ watching out for them, keeping them in their homes and also in communication with people who care. ˙They like to talk with us,Ó says Doucet. ˙A lot of times we_re the only communication they_ve had with an individual in quite some time.Ó

Analysts, including Doucet and Wade Bias, read patient data 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to ensure minimal visits to the emergency department (ED). Lynn Glazebrook, the performance improvement coordinator, follows up with the home-health agencies and examines developing trends. Just about a year into the program, concrete data isn_t yet available, but the results thus far are encouraging.„

˙What we_re hearing now is the instant satisfaction they_re getting,Ó says Bryant. ˙Agencies are catching the small things sooner, and treating patients at home.Ó

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