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Remote monitoring provides convenience, comfort for patients

Remote monitoring provides convenience, comfort for patients
Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Ed Brown spent six days hospitalized when an influx in potassium led to a dangerous change in his heart rhythm.

Ed Brown, Elroy, with Cheryl Vulstek, RN. Gundersen St. Joseph's Home Monitoring Program

He was recuperating at his house in Elroy when a nurse suggested he participate in Gundersen St. Joseph's Remote Patient Monitoring, a program that connects patients at home with their care team.

"I said, 'Let's try it,'" says Ed, 78. "And it's certainly working out well for me."

Patients like Ed measure their weight, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels at home on equipment provided by Gundersen St. Joseph's. Within minutes, vital sign data travels wirelessly to the hospital, where it's reviewed and compiled by a nurse and a provider, says Cheryl Vulstek, quality and education director, Gundersen St. Joseph's.

If there appears to be something going on, I may make medication recommendations or order labs or a chest X-ray," says Ed's provider, Kate O'Rourke, DO, Family Medicine, and vice chief medical officer. "If we think a patient needs to be seen, the problem is identified and rectified much sooner since we have this insight."

The monitoring program works best for patients with continuing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and diabetes. It's designed for short-term use for patients who are at-risk of readmission.

"Patients feel more in control and accountable for their health," Cheryl says. "We have been able to serve as a communication link between provider and patient, with the added benefit of reinforcing education regarding their disease."

For Ed, the program spares him daily trips to Hillsboro. He praised the equipment's ease of use and ongoing communication with nurses monitoring his results.

"Measuring every day is a reminder that I need to understand these things and the doctor needs to know what's going on," he says.

In too many cases, patients wait until they are too ill to manage their health at home, Dr. O'Rourke says.

"This service aims to avoid that," she says. "Just having an extra set of eyes on these folks often is the difference between them having another hospitalization, a serious complication or worse, versus being able to stay home and get personalized medical care without leaving the house."

In most cases, Medicare Plan B covers the cost of home monitoring; otherwise, the fee is $40 for the first month and $20 for each additional month. Our staff can help you check whether your insurance provides coverage.

A referral is needed to enroll in remote patient monitoring. Talk with your provider to determine whether the program is right for you. For more information, call (608) 489-8116.

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