How can telehealth technology benefit primary care?
Telehealth services can make it more efficient to manage ongoing care. For example, in 2003, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) introduced a package of home telehealth services to help patients with chronic conditions that prefer to live at home, rather than in an assisted-living setting. The program made available telehealth services, including videophones, digital cameras (for telewound care and teledermatology), and vital sign monitors. By 2007, the program had enrolled 30,000 patients and achieved a 19% reduction in hospital visits, in addition to other cost savings. The VHA's success suggests that telehealth technology indeed has a place in primary care. By integrating health care into daily life, instead of limiting contact with the medical system to a few office visits, the dynamic of treatment changes to emphasize self-management. Given the success of home care in the VHA system, it is likely that home care will be a focus of telehealth technology in the future. Other telehealth programs have demonstrated a beneficial outcome resulting from regular phone contact with a nurse in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression, and hypertension.
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