Chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, obesity, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affect billions of people worldwide. Persons with chronic medical conditions often have difficulty driving or physically traveling to their healthcare providerís office, especially in winter in northern climates. This is particularly a problem for the elderly, who typically must rely on someone else to transport them. Chronic patients also tend to be hesitant to "bother their doctor" if they have exacerbations of their condition. Hesitancy in contacting the provider or missing needed appointments, causes the medical status of the patient to deteriorate, which results in mismanagement of their condition (Maggie's Story). This mismanagement can waste healthcare dollars.
Online patient care offers solutions for these inefficiencies in healthcare delivery. The term patient "e-care" was coined to describe this new mode of interaction between patients and their health care providers. Internet technology has opened up the possibility of patients receiving disease monitoring and management by their providers, in their own homes. Patient e-care can bring back the house call experience, long missed by consumers. Moreover, patient e-care could potentially allow health care to finally become proactive in preventing disease exacerbations, rather than predominantly reactive in dealing with them.
Patient eCare Services
eHealth International, Inc. is a company providing e-care services to consumers and healthcare providers (article at ehealthnurse.com). Condition-specific web sites allow consumers to interact with their healthcare providers, as well as with other individuals afflicted with the same conditions (wetbusters.com and blubberbusters.com). Patient e-monitoring systems allow home monitoring of physiologic parameters, such as blood pressure, blood glucose, respiratory peak flow, and weight measurement, via the Internet. A patient can utilize an instrument at home, such as a typical blood pressure home monitor, which is wired to a miniature computer system, that automatically sends the patientís data via the Internet to a ďsecureĒ Internet server. For example, in blood pressure monitoring, the patient simply attaches the instrumentís arm cuff every 6-12 hours, clicks on a couple of buttons, and the readings are automatically sent via the Internet to a secure server database (from anywhere in the world). The patientís healthcare provider can then view the patient's data, via a standard web browser (again, from anywhere in the world), which is continually updated in real time by new data. An Internet-based alarm system alerts the caregiver to abnormal physiological values. The caregiver can delegate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week monitoring responsibility to a call center, which can notify the caregiver of abnormal values or other problems. The patient's data, moreover, is taken in a baseline living or working state, so that erroneous data, such as "white-coat hypertension", are avoided.
eCare allows many
conditions in medical
practice to be more optimally monitored