It's 10 a.m. and the device near Marilyn Yeats' bed stand begins to ring. It's a white box with a flip open touch screen, and every day it begins by asking Marilyn how she's feeling and whether she's taken her meds. She will feed the device her latest vital signs, including her weight and blood pressure. And then she'll answer a series of questions about her health. The device is the CareInnovations Guide. It is one of the first products from the joint health care venture formed by technology giants Intel and General Electric. Marilyn is one of two thousand congestive heart failure patients taking part in a trial by health care provider Humana Cares to help manage their chronic condition. All are living in their own homes.
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Marilyn, who is a 78-year-old widow, not only suffers from congestive heart failure, but also a number of other heart related ailments. She thinks the pilot program is working.
"It lets me know if the medicine is doing the job and reports to my cardiologist ... I can tell if my day was really busy and sent the pressure up. It also uses a weight scale that measures by the 10ths of a pound. That lets you know how much water you gained. The last few days, I put on two pounds of water, so my cardiologist upped my Lasix (a common diuretic)." She adds, "It's like having your own nurse".
Keeping track of weight can be critical for congestive heart failure patients. Uncontrolled, it can lead to emergency room visits, hospitalization or worse. One major goal of the Humana Care program is to spot negative trends in time to head them off before they require those next steps. At the receiving end of Marilyn's data is Kate Marcus, who is not only a trained nurse, but also manages the trial program for Humana Cares. She explains, "The way that the data works is that Marilyn does her session, then the nurses access software which shows them whether there has been a threshold violation. If her blood pressure or weight is outside her parameters, then the nurse calls for an additional assessment to see if they need to call in a physician. Sometimes a member has stopped taking meds simply because they ran out of a prescription. The nurse is then able to work with the member's pharmacy and physician to get them back on meds. This gives nurses the opportunity to intervene earlier in cycle. By monitoring weight gain very regularly you can prevent a hospitalization. That's better for everyone."