Digital Health iPads Deployed To Reduce ER Visits

12-8-2013 9-25-30 PM

Executives at Cornerstone Hospice are turning to digital health to help their patient’s stay out of the emergency room when a visit isn’t necessary. Operating in Central Florida, Cornerstone provides care for a patient census of 800 home-based patients.

Administrators at Cornerstone found that their patients were frequently calling 911 and ending up in the emergency department for conditions that were not serious enough to warrant the trip. They also found that their patients were far more likely to readmit for their condition than the general public. In an effort to help their hospice patients stay at home, Cornerstone is rolling out iPads to its patients as part of a telehealth strategy that will allow them to speak directly with a nurse 24-hours-a-day with no wait.

The iPads will allow patients and nurses to use Face Time to have face-to-face conversations. Nurses will also be able to review data pulled from iPad-connected oxygen saturation readers, a stethoscope, a blood pressure monitor, and a blood glucose monitor. Collectively, this will be enough information for the nurses to advise patients on whether their condition warrants a 911 call or a trip to the ER.

The iPads are also equipped with an app called My Talk, an alternative communication device that helps patients who have lost their ability to speak. The app gives the patient a text-to-speech communication tool as well as an image library to ease the burden of communicating.

Cornerstone is issuing the iPad, the additional connected medical devices, and an iPad stand as a package.  Cornerstone’s 10 person IT team supports the program but local volunteers do much of the basic setup and education. Kim Carter, a volunteer at one of Cornerstone’s Hospice Homes says, “most people are familiar with these newer devices already and they’re much simpler to use. It only takes a minute for our staff to help a patient or family member get set up.” Once installed, patients are able to connect with a nurse at any point to discuss their health concerns.

The program was launched with a $10,000 grant from The J. Milton Hoffa and Nellie E. Hoffa Memorial Foundation. Sprint also contributed funding and helped configure the communications infrastructure that was used to support the new service. The program is already showing positive early signs of success. Since launching, Cornerstone has measured a 30 percent decrease in readmission rates across its patient population.

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