“There’s no place like home.”
That saying, made famous by ”The Wizard of Oz,” reminds us just how nice and convenient it is to do many things at home, and receiving medical care is no exception. Studies have shown that patients recovering from illness or surgery at home heal faster than those in a hospital.
Over the last decade, advancements in technology have created new treatments that can be administered safely in the patient’s home. Donna Turlington, director of clinical operations for Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services, offers an overview of five treatments that can now be performed outside of a hospital or doctor’s office:
1. Telemonitoring. Within the last decade, more homes have been equipped with monitoring devices that transmit a patient’s vital sign statistics – including heart rate, blood pressure, respirations, weight and oxygen in the blood stream – via phone line. Acceptable parameters for the patient’s vital signs are set, and if the device indicates that the vital signs are outside those parameters, the patient receives a visit from a home health nurse.
2. Anodyne therapy. Anodyne therapy is used to supplement physical therapy for patients with debilitating pain from diabetic neuropathy. Wraps are placed around patients’ lower legs that emit small infrared rays of light to relieve pain and promote circulation.
3. PT/INR home testing. Prothrombin times are monitored frequently in patients taking oral anticoagulants such as Coumadin(R) (warfarin) to determine the safest dose and to minimize risk for complications. These patients are accustomed to having blood drawn and sent to a lab for results. Now portable coagulometers (INR monitors) such as the InRatio(R) monitor easily determine INR levels in the home. This allows home health nurses to use a small device much like a glucose monitor for diabetes to obtain results in seconds.
4. Chest catheters. In years past, people suffering pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid) would have needed long hospital stays or placement in a long-term care facility. Medical advancements now allow home health nurses to treat patients with PleurX(R) pleural catheters (chest tubes) in the comfort of their own homes.
5. Intravenous home medication therapy. Certain intravenous treatments that would have once required lengthy hospital stays can now be administered in the home. Medication and infusion pumps can be delivered to the home, and a registered nurse can teach a caregiver how to assist in giving those infusions.
Turlington also notes that several other treatments have seen advancements, including wound vacuums, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and hyperalimentation therapy for those who cannot eat solid foods.