For over ten years The Arizona Telemedicine Program has operated pilot projects to test new tele-home health concepts. These projects utilize inexpensive videophone equipment connecting to the patient’s home through ordinary telephone lines to connect.
Cancer patients often are treated surgically resulting in the need for temporary or permanent ostomies which are surgically created openings in the body for the discharge of body wastes. After such surgeries, patients are sent home, often to the remote, rural areas of the state, and must learn to take care of their new ostomy sites.
The Arizona Telemedicine Program has pioneered the use of videophone technology to connect these patients back to their ostomy nurse in Tucson. During these regular video check-ups the ostomy nurse is able to talk with the patient and closely examine the ostomy site with a special close-up lens. The patient can be assured about their ostomy self-care, or if a problem with the site develops, the nurse can advise the patient on corrective treatment or the need to come in for further medical attention. Since the program’s inception more than 100 rural patients have participated in this program.
One innovative use of the tele-home health technology has allowed a patient needing a heart transplant to go home while waiting for a donor match for his heart. In this case tele-home health equipment was sent home with the patient. This allowed the thoracic surgery team to maintain regular and assuring contact with the patient, without the need for expensive hospitalization. This approach worked quite. After a number of weeks a matching heart was found, transplant surgery was a success, and the patient has resumed an otherwise healthy life in a Phoenix suburb.
Often, cancer patients are hospitalized many miles from members of their families. For example, the patient may be parent of a child in college out of state. In such cases, the Arizona Telemedicine Program has often assisted by placing videophones in the patient’s hospital room or home and arranging for a videophone to be shipped to the distant family member. Care providers report a very positive effect from such compassionate use of the technology.