Evaluating Use Of Innovative Technology In Home Health Care

November 11, 1997

University Park, Pa.- Diabetics in the Philadelphia area will be able to provide their blood sugar levels, pulse measurement, and temperature from home to the home health care nurses in their offices with the help of an innovative technology called Telehealth. A new, 24-month Penn State research project will evaluate the use of the technology as a supplement to on-going home health visits for people with diabetes.

Nationally, diabetes accounts for almost 15 percent of the nation's health care costs and affects 8.4 million people in the United States; in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, more than 200,000 people have diabetes.

The home health research project is funded in part by a grant for $603,610 from the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce. It will be led by Kathryn Dansky, Ph.D., assistant professor of health policy and administration in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development.

The University will partner with The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia for the evaluation. While there is increasing use of telecommunications technology in health care, it has been slow to move into home care, the fastest growing sector of the health care industry, according to Dr. Dansky. The Telehealth technology will allow the Philadelphia Visiting Nurse Association to engage in interactive video, voice and data communications with 200 to 250 of their clients using patient stations which will be placed in the home for a period of sixty days.

The Telehealth system captures and transmits vital medical data while providing remote visual and aural interactive assessment of the patient. The nurse station will allow for direct communication with the patient and will display vital sign readings. Nurses can transmit videos or teach patients about self care through the system. The system will be used in addition to actual home visits; researchers will then compare outcomes for Telehealth patients and traditional home health patients.

The co-investigator on the Telehealth project is Dennis Shea, associate professor of health policy and administration, who will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the technology. Paul Hallacher, director of program development at Penn State'sResearch and Technology Transfer Organization, will manage a workshop on technology transfer as part of the project to help other health care organizations acquire and use similar technology. The project continues through September 1999.

The grant is part of $20.9 million in federal matching grants awarded by the Department of Commerce at the end of September to bring the benefits of technology to Americans living in rural and underserved inner city areas through the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP). The federal funds will be matched locally.


EDITOR: Dr. Dansky is at (814) 863-2902 or kxd9@psu.edu by email.

Jean Erstling
(814) 863-4325

Penn State

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