By Amy Chaffins
Today at 7:01 a.m.
Remote monitoring means home sweet home for seniors
New technology is helping people live at home healthfully and independently as long as possible.
For one year, Knute Nelson has been using GrandCare [Systems] – a home-based technology that provides remote patient monitoring – primarily with its home care and hospice patients.
“It can go in any residence, no matter where the person lives, to provide them support on a variety of platforms,” explained Daphne Karpan, nurse and palliative care manager for Knute Nelson.
In most cases, the system is set up as a touchscreen monitor for patients to use. The program provides a customized intuitive, user-friendly interface for things like health and lifestyle assessments, medication reminders, on-screen messages, news and weather, therapeutic games and puzzles, appointment reminders, daily checklists and more.
It also remotely monitors vital signs using wireless health devices that can measure, track and report things like blood pressure and blood sugar testing.
Test results that are detected outside of a normal parameter – like low blood sugar – would be reported immediately to a nurse and caregiver.
“A nurse can then check in with the patient and assess what’s happening before a doctor visit or ER visit,” said Katie Perry, foundation executive director and vice-president of Knute Nelson.
“GrandCare is more of a consistent and steady approach to monitoring the clinical and socialization aspects, rather than the episodic check-ins, monthly or whenever,” she added.
“We’re keeping them in preventative, more cost-effective care rather than the more expensive ER or hospitalization,” Karpan said.
“Home is the preferred setting for care,” she added. “Even among the 85 and older group, as of 2005, 75 percent of 85 and older Medicare beneficiaries were living at home. It’s where they want to be and where they are so this is how we can keep them there safe and keep the caregiver supported so that they’re able to go to work.”
SERVING CAREGIVERS TOO
GrandCare certainly serves the patient, but the caregiver is also the customer.
“There’s an interest from adult children being actively involved in managing care or having some degree of involvement with their parents’ care,” Perry said.
Caregivers access GrandCare’s online portal to also monitor or receive alerts on the patient’s health and status. There are also sensors that link to the system to detect motion, opening of things like doors or cupboards and bed sensors to determine if the patient has gotten out of bed.
The patient dictates who is allowed access to the information. From that, the caregiver determines which notifications they’ll receive when an event occurs. The system can be accessed from any Internet-connected device.
There are currently about 40 GrandCare systems in use across Knute Nelson’s 26-county coverage area. Users range in age from 7 to 99 years old, but the average age group is 75 and older.
“I have a lady in Little Falls whose son lives in California and he’s her primary caregiver… he’s able to help monitor her activity, provide reminders, provide contact, give her some photos to look at to keep her mind functioning,” Karpan said.
When it comes to training patients who are not at all familiar with computers, staff said they use a delicate approach. In fact, they don’t use terms like “email,” instead it’s an electronic “letter.”
Cadi Breun, a nurse and technical care specialist for Knute Nelson, recently used GrandCare’s video chat feature with a client who has some memory issues.
“She has a daughter in California so we Skyped her daughter for the first time and the look on her face when she saw her daughter on the screen – it’s burned into my memory. She said, ‘Is this real? Is this sci-fi? Is this recorded?’ She was just so happy to have that conversation with her daughter,” Breun said. “Her daughter contacted me and said if it wasn’t for this, she wouldn’t have had the good conversations and good memories with her mom.”
Currently, costs associated with GrandCare and remote patient monitoring don’t qualify for Medicare reimbursements.
However, a bipartisan bill moving through Congress is aimed at boosting telehealth use, which reportedly has the potential to reduce Medicare spending on hospital readmissions.
Remote monitoring technology like GrandCare is used worldwide.