By Sherrie Petersen
Looking after the health of those we care about, especially our senior citizens and other vulnerable population members, is always a priority for family and friends. Unfortunately, because of time or distance, we often can’t monitor their health and wellbeing as much as we would like. With the advent of greater data access, improved connectivity and other technologies, the wellness of those we care about is having a new and more promising day. LivingWell@Home is a service of The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society that’s designed to help people stay in control of their health by identifying potential health concerns earlier.
LivingWell@Home uses sensor and telehealth technology to spot changes in day-to-day living so caregivers can identify developing conditions before they become a problem. Sensor technology uses small devices sensitive to movement that are placed in a person’s home to measure sleep and activity patterns. Telehealth is a tool that tracks vital health information, such as blood pressure, pulse, weight, oxygen saturation, and glucose levels.
The data from the sensors and telehealth technology are measured over time and reviewed by the LivingWell Center, the Society’s own centralized team of registered nurses and data specialists. If any of the data is outside the ranges set by a primary care giver, a LivingWell Center staff member follows up with the client.
This is what sets us apart from all the other technology providers—the LivingWell Center staff members personally connect people and their caregivers to the data. The health information is provided to them with the objective of early detection on potential healthcare changes leading to early interventions that reduce or prevent a negative healthcare change.
That is an important distinction as LivingWell@Home is a trending service, not an emergency service. It is proactive, versus reactive. The data it receives can lead to early intervention and detection of conditions, such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, dementia, diabetes, depression, medication adherence, and medication reactions.
The population that LivingWell@Home is serving often has multiple chronic conditions, multiple contributing factors, and are frequent users of the healthcare system. As a result of this new innovative approach to wellness, LivingWell@Home has minimized emergency room visits, unnecessary hospitalizations and enhanced the knowledge base of primary care providers on how their patients are really doing. One clinic partner stated, “We knew our patients were sick, but until we began using LivingWell@Home, we didn’t know how sick they were.”
In the United States today, 11.7% of our population lives with more than three chronic health conditions. Individuals with more than three chronic conditions, who are more than 65 years old, contribute to 90.6% of all hospital stays. On average, this results in 2.25 hospital stays per year for these individuals.
Recently, LivingWell@Home reviewed data from one of our clinic partners. The data showed that from December 2014 to August 2015, LivingWell@Home prevented 70.1 % of expected hospitalizations for 31 patients. Furthermore, clinic care coordinators identified 30 instances in which LivingWell@Home prevented an adverse event.
The difference is in utilization. According to the 2014 National State of Industry Report from Fazzi Associates, of agencies reporting that they have a telehealth program, less than 25 % of their units are in use on any given day. In contrast, the average daily utilization of the LivingWell@Home service and telehealth equipment is greater than 93%.
LivingWell@Home is a powerful example of how technology can be leveraged to meet the needs of an exploding population attempting to manage chronic health conditions. As a result, LivingWell@Home clients are realizing the many benefits of the service, including:
- Data to support baseline assessments
- Wellness coaching with goal setting
- Proactive identification of health and safety concerns
- Reduced readmissions and emergency department visits
- Patient engagement enhancement
- Dual eligible beneficiary community costs lessened
- Increased patient satisfaction
- Improved health and wellbeing of population
Most of all, LivingWell@Home has offered peace of mind, not only for its users but also their caregivers, be they local or far away. The data, technologies, and services that come together help people live as independently and healthfully as possible and according to everyone’s individual needs. That extends wellness and comfort to clients, their families, and healthcare service providers—something we all enjoy sharing.
Sherrie Petersen is the Director of LivingWell@Home at the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.