UVM Health Network using video calls to allow patients to check-in with nurses

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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) The University of Vermont Health Network is working to help bring care to people in rural areas of the state including allowing people to check in with their doctor without leaving their bed, all through a new telemonitoring program.

Before calls are made, a lot of the work is done behind the scenes.

Patients take their vital signs at home and that information is sent to a database.

The telemonitoring nurses look at the data daily, making video calls based on high-risk patients.

"These folks are kind of like in this cycle of going to the hospital, going to rehab, going to home health," said Heather Hunneman, a registered nurse.

Hunneman says the goal is to identify that group of people and to intervene so patients make less unnecessary visits to the hospital.

"And hopefully improve peoples ability to self-manage their care," said Hunneman.

She says that is sometimes reminding patients of simple tasks like drinking more water by taking the cup out of the fridge before it's too cold.

Hunneman says her patients feel more connected to her with these on-demand calls. But the benefits go beyond the extra attention.

"In the end it really lets us get the nurses out to people in a large volume that would be difficult to do in person," said Todd Patterson, the director of Home Health Services.

He says they are able to impact both the emergency room use and hospital utilization before there is an issue.

"We're trying to get ahead of a crisis," said Patterson.

The goal in the future is to get the telemonitoring units to more households and really explore how to continue to give care to people across the state.