Program Director of Development at Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County (VNS) Brenda Bartock, along with the Telehealth team, recently received the 2014 Quality Team of the Year Award at the Visiting Nurse Associations of America’s 32nd Annual Meeting. The award was given for the program’s involvement in a two-year project to expand their Telehealth services in the Greater Rochester Area.

VNS is an organization that provides a range of in-home medical services for patients.  The initiative was a collaboration between VNS of Rochester and other health care facilities hoping to observe the benefits of Telehealth for patients who are not receiving in-home care. The organization received a grant of more than half a million dollars from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to fund the project.

“Our goal is to demonstrate improved disease management through reductions in hospitalization and emergency care with the use of telemedicine in targeted populations,” Bartock said in a press release.

VNS patients with heart failure enrolled in the Telehealth program are nearly 53% less likely to be hospitalized, according to the UR Medical Center (URMC). The same patients are also 46% less likely to require an emergency room visit.

The Telehealth Services Program allows physicians to receive up-to-date information on vital signs and symptoms of patients with chronic illnesses through wireless data transmission. Medical equipment such as a scale, blood pressure monitor or oximeter are connected to a modem installed in the home which sends data immediately back to a patient’s healthcare provider.

“It does provide us […] that virtual hospitalization role to where we can continue to follow the patient, monitor their vital signs, and adjust their medications even after they’ve left the hospital,” John Teeters, M.D.  of URMC said, discussing the benefits of Telehealth in an informational video.  He added, “With the Telehealth program, I’ll know what happens tomorrow, so I can be much more engaged with the patient.”

Recurring hospitalizations are a common occurrence in medicine, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Nearly one in five Medicare recipients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being treated. Services such as Telehealth may help to lower that figure.

“We can safely monitor patients daily, looking for subtle changes in their condition,” Bartock said in the same release.

Telehealth services have also been successful in healthcare facilities around the country. At this year’s Annual Meeting of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, Ann Painter of the Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills presented the results of a study conducted on her local New Jersey patients enrolled in the Telehealth program.

At the end of 12 months, it was found that the service reduced the number of hospitalizations by 50 percent. The study estimates that hospitalizations cost around $10,000 per visit, suggesting that the use of Telehealth may generate significant savings, both in New Jersey and here in Rochester.

MVP Health Care, the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center and Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service, all partner organizations with VNS for the Telehealth project, saw similar benefits for their patients. These partnering healthcare facilities serve both rural and urban populations in the Greater Rochester Area.

For spearheading the project, Bartock accepted the award on behalf of VNS at the annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this month.

Mitchell is a member of the class of 2014. 

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