Telehealth Technology Helps ER Patients Heal at Home

Jessica Vaculik, RN, is a Home Health Care nurse who loves her job. In her field of work, she gets to look after patients in the comfort of their own homes.

“I feel like I really make a difference when I’m in their environment,” Vaculik says. “I get to know them and understand their wants and needs on a personal basis. You get to know their families, grandkids; it’s remarkable.”

Ann Rotterdam is one of those patients. Rotterdam has a history of heart problems, and has received open-heart surgery and, later, two stents. Her most recent visit to the emergency room (ER) occurred in April 2015, when she arrived at ProMedica St. Luke’s Hospital feeling short of breath and with swelling in her legs and hands.

Becoming an ER2Home Program Patient
After being treated in the ER for heart failure, Rotterdam’s ER physician recommended her for the ER2Home Program. The program is ideal for patients with conditions like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, urinary tract infections, or sepsis (a complication from infection). Instead of being admitted into the hospital, they are sent home and closely monitored by a team of professionals through home nurse visits and Telehealth technology.

“Ann’s illness progressed slowly before she went to the ER. She wasn’t in any severe distress, so she could be monitored from home,” explains Vaculik, “If it weren’t for this program, Ann would have stayed in the ER for at least 24-48 hours, and her risk for readmission would have been greater. She [potentially] could have gone to the hospital, went home, and went back to the ER. That’s why the Telehealth equipment and ER2Home Program exist, to reduce the rate of readmissions.”

Vaculik continues, “Without this program, patients wouldn’t have the backup of a nurse looking over them.”

How Does Telehealth Technology Work?
Launched in 2014, the ER2Home Program is a 30-day monitoring program that allows a less critical patient, like Rotterdam, to heal in their own home.

Jessica Vaculik, RN, a Home Health Care nurse demonstrates the Telehealth technology in the Telehealth Hub.

Telehealth equipment is used for daily monitoring of the patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, and weight. The data then transfers to the Telehealth team of nurses at ProMedica Home Health Care who are alerted of any changes or complications.

“This allows the nurse to quickly react to any abnormal vital signs to prevent the patient from going back to the hospital,” says Vaculik.

The patient answers survey questions about how they’re feeling each day, and what symptoms they may be experiencing.

“The Telehealth technology makes us feel like we have our hands on our patient even if we aren’t [physically] there,” explains Vaculik. “This gives us nurses and the patient a sense of safety and security.”

Something as simple as a vital signs check is something near to Rotterdam’s heart. A former nurse herself, she couldn’t believe how far the technology has come since her days in patient care.

“The nurses would go in and check on patients once in a while, but nothing like this,” says Rotterdam.

“Ann was shocked; she thought it was so neat,” says Vaculik. “And she was particularly concerned about her own health.”

Living Healthier After Home Health Care
“This program is very valuable for people,” says Rotterdam. “It’s not complicated and the nurses break it down into terms for you to understand. They always ask if you have any questions.”

Rotterdam says the program is convenient, especially for those who can take care of themselves, but may need a little assistance. “It’s good if you can do anything for the wellness of a patient and prevent them from going back into the hospital,” she says.

For Rotterdam, the program helped her better understand the dietary habits she needed to develop to become healthier.

“I had a sodium problem,” admits Rotterdam. “Now I am very careful about eating habits, more careful than I would have been if I recovered in the ER and went home.”

Want to know more about the ER2Home program? Contact Kim Putnam, RN, ER2Home Program Coordinator, at 419-824-7184.