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The guide also enables the health care provider to deliver timely educational videos at the moment when they can do the most good. For example, if a patient's blood pressure is high, the system might deliver a short video on methods of controlling blood pressure. If the patient is on a sodium restricted diet, the system might deliver some menu ideas for a low salt meal shortly before lunchtime. The guide is also equipped with two-way video conferencing so that if there's a problem, not only can Marilyn talk with her nurse about what's going on, but it gives the patient the ability to see a human face, not just hear a disembodied voice over the phone. What's more, it gives the nurse the opportunity to look at Marilyn, and see if there are any obvious physical signs of a problem, such as a change in color or demeanor.

Trial Run

The Humana Cares trial is scheduled to run 15 months. The hope is that by using the guide for several months, patients will learn to manage their conditions. Kate Marcus says the goal is for each patient to use the guide for six to nine months. Then the caregivers see if the patient is ready to "graduate". "We look at whether the member has had a hospitalization within 4 to 5 months," she said. "We also look at goals that nurse has set for weight, water weight and the patient's ability to keep monitoring even after the device is gone." If successful, the device is passed along to another trial patient.

Jean Bisio, the president of Humana Cares, says one of the main differences between using the CareInnovations Guide and other biometric devices is that it allows the caregiver to customize parameters and alerts. She says," This is not one size fits all. Many of our patients will never have blood pressure readings of 120/80." Bisio points to the story of one patient who had wildly erratic blood pressure for some 15 years. Adjusting her medication based on office visits was hit or miss, but by using the guide, her doctor was able to adjust her medication almost daily. The result is that her blood pressure is finally under control.

Next: Expanding the availability of e-health care. >>

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