Healthbeat Segment: Telemedicine

July 14, 2011 8:29:12 PM PDT
Telemedicine is a new option for patients who would rather stay home than go to the doctor's office.

Let's say you're watching your cholesterol and even though you're on medication. You wake up feeling a little bit off. Normally you wouldn't do anything. But maybe you would if you could.

You could get a blood pressure reading, a quick measure of your balance, your arm strength, even your heart and lungs. It's a quick exam in a lounge chair. And it's for real.

It is the Health-e-Care system. Just sit back in the comfort of your home. A health care provider who is live on a monitor for example through the interpret or phone can check your vitals. High-tech tools and devices added to the furniture make it possible.

"Anytime new symptoms come up they can get on the chair get on and call us," said Dr. Richard Iaccino, Commwell Inc.

Add a special mitt called the "physio glove" and you can get a sophisticated ECG of the heart. Results are transmitted instantly.

Such a checkup took place recently at LaGrange Pointe, an independent senior living community in downtown LaGrange. The facility is a case study site for the system. Resident Eileen Cook has no health issues right now but gave the system a try.

"There is a certain amount of confidence in knowing that you have something like this where you live," said Cook.

Remote monitoring is now seen as an option bridging the gap between doctor visits. There are now intensive care units where vitals are watched from afar and robots that allow neurologists in one location to check up on patients in another.

But telemedicine is not meant to replace the physician. Test results can be interpreted immediately or can be stored electronically for the patient's doctors to access later. If trouble is spotted right away, action can be taken.

Advocates say this not only saves time and money but it can help manage chronic diseases and catch early signs of stroke or heart problems. For seniors it's also another form of preventative care that can promote independence.

"A doctor could in the future prescribe this for follow up in the home or in an independent community such as this," said Linda Kunicki, marketing director, LaGrange Pointe.

The chair and the glove come from an Evanston based company called Commwell medical. The creator is cardiologist Daniel David. The pioneer in telemedicine says home monitoring provides a unique picture of overall health you can't get in a medical facility.

"Data collection of what happens at home will be super important to design new ways to treat patients. Telehealth, telecare will be the next step in really taking care of patients," said Dr. David.

The real challenge will be integrating telemedicine into the current healthcare system and figuring out who will pay for it. But if you want a taste of this practice right now, there are thousands of health related applications or apps you can access on a smart phone, some costing as little as a dollar. They do simple things such tracking blood pressure to counting calories.


LaGrange Pointe
51 East Cossitt Ave
LaGrange, Ill
708 354-7500

American Telemedicine Association

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