– A Colorado-based provider of hospice and palliative care services is launching a telehealth platform to improve care management for patients and their caregivers.
“Our mission is to affirm life at every step of patients’ and their families’ journey through illness and loss,” Michael McHale, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “That mission can be difficult to accomplish when care is provided in the home setting and we want to be available in real-time 24/7. We wanted to create an ability to monitor vital data about our patients on a daily basis, visualize their disease progression without having to dispatch personnel to their homes each time, and communicate visually as well as verbally on-demand.”
Hospice and palliative care programs around the country are looking at telemedicine technology to breach that gap between healthcare providers and the home or clinic. Oftentimes care management and support for patients and their families is fractured or siloed, resulting in delays or challenges in accessing resources when they’re most needed.
“Care planning and care decisions are very personal and very relational,” Dr. Christopher P. Comfort, the Medical Director of New York City’s Calvary Hospital, said in a February 2019 interview with mHealthIntelligence. “But there really is not the manpower of palliative care specialists to provide those services face-to-face. There’s a wonderful opportunity here to … make this (process) better.”
Some state health systems are exploring using telehealth to extend palliative care programs throughout rural regions. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is working with a pair of community hospitals in Alabama to develop a virtual care platform aimed at African-American patients, while the Medical University of South Carolina is in the midst of a three-year project to study the viability of a statewide, telehealth-based palliative care program.
“There’s a lot that goes into this type of care,” said Emily Sigmon, the urgent care coordinator at the MUSC Health Center for Telehealth, ticking off family meetings, advanced care planning, pain and symptom management and even end-of-life directives. “You need to identify everyone involved, make sure the family is included, and create a program that meets all of their needs.”
In a test of the program last December, TRU Community Care patients were given tablets loaded with software offering communications and resources. When the program is expanded, they’ll be given mHealth devices to capture and store vital signs, which can then be shared with care teams and analyzed for trends. The patients and their family members will also be able to use their own mobile devices.
“We see remote patient monitoring and telehealth not as a replacement for our in-home visits but as an extension of our services,” McHale said in the press release. “It allows us to be there when the patient needs us most. Getting ahead of health events through data monitoring and virtual visits gives us the ability to provide better care which we believe will improve the patient experience.”