YOUR HEALTH: Having an at-home doctor

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – Richard Kaiser lives in rural Pennsylvania.  It's more than an hour away from his cardiologist.

"You know you could be sitting there healthy as a bear, with heart trouble, and five minutes later have a heart attack."

Two heart attacks, a stroke and two surgeries require Richard's doctors to keep a close eye on his health.   But this 83-year-old doesn't like to leave home, or his wife Betty, as she fights cancer.

It's one reason Richard is taking part in a study assessing the health benefits of home monitoring.   He was shipped a tablet, a Bluetooth connected scale, and other wireless devices to measure his oxygen levels and blood pressure.

In real time, a nurse based in a call center checks for changes: weight gain or increased blood pressure might signal a red flag.

"The program really does help the patient to understand how to take care of themselves in the comfort of their home, independently," said Linda Somma, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center Remote Monitoring Nurse.

"We always thought the older patients wouldn't adopt it, but we're actually seeing age bias," said Dr. Andrew Watson, president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association.

Elderly patients tell Dr. Watson they like that the technology gives them better access to experts.

Richard Kaiser had one hospitalization and two emergency visits in the six months before he started the monitoring.

Since then, none.

"You don't have to be chasing to the doctor cause the nurses are monitoring it every day."

More than 11-hundred patients with congestive heart failure have been part of the 90-day monitoring program.   The hospital says 92% of the patients who enrolled are complying; and hospitalizations and e-r visits are down.

The call center nurses are also using the remote monitoring to find patients who are in need of medical assistance and dispatch a visiting nurse to the home.

SELF-DIAGNOSE: A nationwide survey was conducted with 3,014 adults living in the U.S. over both landlines and cell phones and found:

  • 35% of U.S adults have gone online to self-diagnose a medical condition
  • 82% of people in the study used search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  • 13% went straight to a website that was health-related such as WebMD
  • 2% used Wikipedia
  • 1% used Facebook and other social media for medical information

Regarding demographics, women, young adults, and people who made over $75,000 were more likely to search the internet for their health conditions. Moreover, the results illustrate that although people are using technology to self-diagnose, the majority of people, 46%, said that what they found online led to believe they needed help from a medical professional.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.