Flagstaff Medical Center to Send Patients Home with Smartphones

Smartphones are amazing tools that can do amazing things to help people in need, but if the patient can’t afford one, or doesn’t see the need then it really doesn’t matter how great they are.  One hospital in Arizona is trying to overcome that stumbling block by sending patients home with all the technology they need.

Flagstaff Medical Center’s Care Beyond Walls and Wires initiative is designed to help patients in more rural areas receive the care they need without having to repeatedly come into the hospital.  Here are some of the highlights from the press release:

In collaboration with Qualcomm Incorporated, through its Wireless ReachTM initiative, Zephyr Technology, Verizon Wireless, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Care Beyond Walls and Wiresuses advanced 3G wireless technology and health-monitoring devices to enhance the care of patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) or other related conditions.

Care Beyond Walls and Wires uses wireless broadband tools, such as smart phones and 3G technology, to allow in-home daily monitoring of patients with CHF. These tools will collect and transfer critical data, such as weight, blood pressure, activity and other important health indicators, to nurses at FMC who are following patients enrolled in the program. Information will be sent daily for three to six months after the patient’s discharge from the hospital. This daily exchange of information enables health care providers and patients to work together to manage CHF.

According to the Federal government, 25 to 50 percent of CHF patients are rehospitalized within three to six months of a hospital discharge. The primary reasons for rehospitalization include patients not taking medications as prescribed, failure to follow a dietary plan, not knowing the early signs of CHF and lack of planned follow-up with a healthcare provider after leaving the hospital. Each of these factors can be addressed on a daily basis through Care Beyond Walls and Wires.
Each monitoring kit includes: 3G-enabled Motorola Droid X2 smart phone, provided by Verizon Wireless, with a mobile application that allows patients to rapidly record and send information to FMC via a secure Internet portal; an oxygen and pulse monitor; blood pressure cuff; and weight scale. Additional items in the kit may include an advanced Zephyr health-monitoring system to measure other vital signs such as breathing rate, skin temperature, activity and posture.
While I really like the idea, and I personally am a fan of technology in any form, I am not sure how effective this will be.  It said in the article that one of the main problems patients have is taking their medication properly and failure to follow recovery plans.  If people are unable or unwilling to do those simple things, how likely are they to use all of this new equipment, or enter the data and send it to the doctor.
It seems to me that the people who are most likely to benefit from technology like this are people who already do what they are supposed to do, but are willing to put forth more effort to take their care to the next level.  That being said, if it helps to save any lives then the effort is definitely worth it.