The novel coronavirus has changed many facets of life, from the way people do their jobs, to grocery shopping, to schooling.
Social distancing, a term few would have heard at the beginning of the year, is a buzzword used in daily conversation as the country and world find ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable people safe.
Providing medical care in the home is another element of life that has been impacted by COVID-19. In fact, those who need home health care services may also be the ones most at risk for serious illness.
Vulnerable populations include people 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions, such as serious heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma, liver disease, or being immunocompromised, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
VNA Health has provided Telehealth care for over 14 years in Santa Barbara County; they introduced the first Telehealth Care Program in Santa Barbara County in 2006.
Now, face-to-face contact brings a risk of transmitting COVID-19, and home health providers have looked for new ways to provide quality care while keeping medical workers and patients safe. This is where telehealth monitors come in.
“Telehealth monitors allow for remote health care,” said Mary Beth Gomez, director of Home Health with VNA Health in Santa Barbara. “It’s easy to teach patients how to use it. They monitor themselves, and the app sends the data to the telehealth RN, who reviews those numbers every day.”
VNA Health teaches patients how to measure and chart progress using simple instruments and an app. The monitor package comes with a wireless pulse oximeter for measuring oxygen saturation and a wireless blood pressure cuff. The readings from these gauges are recorded in the app, which a registered nurse can view remotely. Patients or their family members can also record respirations, temperature, weight, and glucose readings in one secure, easy to access location.
“We teach the patient how to monitor themselves, which is important because it allows them to be independent,” Gomez said. “We teach them why it’s important to take their blood pressure or weigh themselves every day. They can start observing their trends and notice that they do feel better when taking their medicines and staying active.”
VNA Health also shares the results from the telehealth monitors with the patient’s primary care physician. This makes it easy for doctors to keep up to date on care and notice when there needs to be a change.
“In light of COVID-19, this technology is really important,” Gomez said. “It allows remote health care, where we stay connected with patients and give them the support they need whenever they need it.”
Telehealth has also been an opportunity to teach patients how to use electronic devices to access their medical information and have face-to-face video chat visits with doctors, she said.
“We’ve been able to meet the community’s needs, and it’s great to see how grateful physicians are when they’ve been able to connect with their patients in whatever form of technology patients have around the house,” Gomez said.
The Home Healthcare team at VNA Health includes a team of nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and home health aides who bring medical care into people’s homes to improve their health and teach them how to take care of themselves.
VNA Health also offers hospice care, palliative care, and a loan closet that lends durable medical equipment, such as walkers, canes, and bath benches, free to community members who need them.
For more information about Telehealth Care and other services provided by VNA Health, visit VNA.health.