December 14, 2011 — Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) has begun enrollment for a new program, Care Beyond Walls and Wires, an initiative extending patient care beyond the walls of the hospital or physician's office. In collaboration with Qualcomm Inc., and its Wireless Reach initiative — along with Zephyr Technology, Verizon Wireless, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the program uses advanced 3G wireless technology and health-monitoring devices to enhance patient care for congestive heart failure (CHF) or other related conditions.
"This project launches a model of care that transcends traditional medicine, using state-of-the-art technology to care for patients beyond the walls of the hospital," said William Bradel, Flagstaff Medical Center president and CEO. "Working with these technology companies and national health agencies will extend FMC's reach into outlying areas where healthcare is most needed."
Qualcomm is lending its expertise and donating wireless devices to FMC in support of the project. Zephyr is providing advanced health-monitoring systems to patients and Verizon Wireless is providing 3G-enabled Motorola Droid X2 smartphones. The NIH is assisting FMC with project planning and evaluation.
Care Beyond Walls and Wires uses wireless broadband tools 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. Information will be sent daily for three to six months after the patient's discharge from the hospital.
This daily exchange of information enables healthcare providers and patients to work together to manage CHF. With the technology, healthcare professionals can detect a decline in a patient's health status early and intervene immediately. This will help to reduce unnecessary travel, physician office visits, costs and readmission to a hospital.
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 FMC’s program.
Fifty patients discharged from FMC will be invited to participate in the project; they must have been admitted for CHF or related cardiac condition and be at high risk for readmission. It is anticipated that many of the project participants will live in underserved and rural communities or on nearby Native American reservations.
Project participants will be provided in-home monitoring equipment, mobile phones and training. Some patients also will receive home visits from outreach staff.
The far-reaching wireless capabilities of this program are especially important to the Native American population living in outlying areas where landline phones may not be available. Some have limited access to electricity and running water and finding transportation to see a physician on a regular basis can be challenging.
"Our mission is to transform the health of the communities we serve," Bradel said. "This program will dramatically extend the delivery of healthcare by giving our CHF patients the tools to stay connected to a nurse at FMC, regardless of how close they are to the hospital."
FMC is Northern Arizona's only regional referral center, caring for more than 85,000 patients each year. The non-profit subsidiary of Northern Arizona Healthcare has been open since 1936.
For more information: www.flagstaffmedicalcenter.com