Telehealth is a tool used to manage a wide range of conditions, diseases, and variables pertaining to individual health. It can be used as an adjunct to preventative medicine; aiding in an individual’s quest for healthier living through exercise, diet, and nutritional education. It can also be used to warn diabetes and cancer patients of changes in their vital signs, which, if not addressed quickly and accurately, could result in drastic declines in their health. The impacts of telehealth can be as mild as encouraging a person to eat smaller, more nutrient-rich meals to help shrink their waistlines, or as extreme as informing a doctor of a worsening condition that proves to be the tipping point between life and death. In the case of managing patients suffering from Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), telehealth can be crucial in saving untold lives and altering the path of one of this country’s most prevalent and devastating plights.
Heart disease is so common in the United States that it has its own brand. Television and radio commercials are inundated with messages from the American Heart Association. Our grocery stores are filled with products incorporating the heart-healthy logo, boasting their ability to reduce blood pressure, prevent plaque buildup, and raise the consumers’ Omega-3s. According to the Centers for Disease control, heart disease is not only the leading cause of death in America (tallying more annual deaths than chronic lower respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease combined), but also one of the fastest-killing, resulting in the mortality of roughly half the population of heart disease patients within 5 years of diagnosis.
Many of the leading causes of CHF are, in fact, other diseases. Diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and high blood pressure are all leading causes of CHF, and, through telehealth, are all diseases that can be closely monitored, adjusted, and treated using regularly submitted vitals, medication adjustments, and consistent evaluations from medical professionals and clinicians.
One of the great benefits of telehealth CHF management programs is the immediacy in which patients and caregivers alike can upload, share, and evaluate vital information. Wearable and mobile devices allow for daily screenings of weight fluctuation, blood glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, and many other factors that contribute to heart failure. Telehealth devices can also perform routine questionnaires, asking patients to answer questions related to shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and other warning signs associated with CHF. The results of these collected vitals and questionnaire reports can then be viewed and analyzed immediately by professionals.
Telehealth does not only help improve patient care, but also reduces overall costs. Annual healthcare spending associated with CHF patients is exorbitant, totaling between $12 billion and $17 billion each year. Telehealth reduces these costs through reduced hospitalizations and preventing future complications from occurring.
Among all of the roles telehealth plays in the healthcare system, none may be as crucial as managing CHF patients; reducing mortality rates, lowering costs, and improving overall patient care and safety for those suffering with one of the most terrible diseases we face.
About Karen Thomas
Karen Thomas is the President of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions. In 2004, she developed and secured funding for the first Medicaid-covered telemonitoring program within the Disease Management Department for the State of Missouri. Seeing the need that various industries had for cost-saving solutions that could provide improved health outcomes for patients, she began Advanced TeleHealth Solutions in 2011. Thomas is an expert on diabetes telehealth programs and a nationally renowned speaker, using her expertise in telehealth monitoring to educate hospitals, home health agencies, and other companies and organizations about the benefits of telemedicine solutions.