Telehealth is changing the landscape of medical care in a monumental way. It allows patients to monitor their day-to-day health utilizing easy-to-use technology that relays their personal information, including their vitals, to a clinician’s office. If there’s anything “off,” the appropriate health care workers will be alerted.
That’s how healthcare providers for one VNA telehealth patient, *Pamela Thorp, were able to figure out the root cause of her high blood pressure relatively quickly, in less than one month, upon Pamela starting telehealth.
Pamela’s telehealth journey began with a home health referral to the VNA for physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) to address severe back pain that was causing residual issues, including loss of strength that was hampering her ability to do basic chores, like ironing. The VNA’s admitting nurse then included telehealth for Pamela because her blood pressure was high during the visit. “We have a protocol in place for telehealth that, if at any time the nurse or therapist feels the patient would benefit from vital sign monitoring, we are able to start telehealth services,” said VNA Telehealth Coordinator, Stephanie Corbin, RN, WCC.
Pamela checked her vitals twice a day with the telehealth machine, which she found useful. “I think it’s always helpful to have one particular machine for the consistency of it; you’re using the same machines for the same purpose every single day,” she said.
A cornerstone of telehealth is the nurse on the other end who’s monitoring the patient’s vitals daily. In Pamela’s case, this was Stephanie. “We monitored Pamela’s blood pressure, her heart rate, her weight, and every day she answered a series of survey questions to give us a better understanding of how she was feeling that day,” said Stephanie.
Pamela was very appreciative of this very human side of telehealth. “Stephanie was terrific. If my blood pressure would go up, she would call to find out if I was having a headache and how I was feeling because I have been dizzy, shaky, wobbly, itchy – you name it,” said Pamela. “She was so concerned at one point when my blood pressure was extremely high that she said, ‘You’d better go to your cardiologist,’ – and she knew who my cardiologist was.”
In fact, Stephanie was in touch with Pamela’s cardiologist frequently. “He was able to make medical adjustments for Pamela based on our reports,” said Stephanie.
At one point, the cardiologist put Pamela on a blood pressure medication. “But it didn’t do anything,” said Pamela, who relayed this information to Stephanie, something she was grateful for. “I spoke with Stephanie more than I spoke to any other person. She was great, she was calming, she was concerned. I can’t speak highly enough about her.”
As usual, Stephanie followed up with Pamela’s cardiologist’s office and relayed Pamela’s concerns. “I think that’s why my cardiologist, amongst all his other tests that he’s given me over the past few months, said that it’s not my heart that’s causing my high blood pressure, it’s stress and anxiety, which I can believe, because I am so afraid of falling,” said Pamela.
Her cardiologist advised her to make an appointment with her primary care physician and discuss the possibility of going to a psychiatrist or psychologist to help address her anxiety, which she is in the process of doing.
With her blood pressure issue being addressed, Pamela no longer needs the VNA telehealth machine, although she still receives VNA home health for physical and occupational therapy to address her ongoing pain and loss of strength. “I still have lost a lot of stamina and the ability to do anything, like ironing, which I love to do, and baking; it’s not happening,” said Pamela, adding that she appreciates the continued PT and OT care from the VNA. “I think the people that you have coming for the home health care are all just really wonderful people and very personable and knowledgeable.”
She’s also grateful to VNA telehealth and Stephanie for helping her doctor discover the underlying cause of her elevated blood pressure. “Telehealth was great…and Stephanie was fantabulous,” said Pamela.
Stephanie feels likewise: “Pamela was a great patient, very receptive to the instructions she was given and was happy to have us calling and checking on her so often.”
*Not her real name.