After several hospitalizations for breathing problems over the last two years, Dolorse Murray was connected to a home-based health management tool last September that has already made a positive impact on her health.
Murray, 71, of Neosho, Missouri, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF). COPD is a condition that blocks the airway making it hard to breathe. CHF is a chronic condition that occurs when a person’s heart is not pumping as well as it should, which can cause fluid to build up in the body. When this happens, patients may gain weight, feel short of breath and have swelling, especially in their legs, feet and ankles.
Murray was enrolled in vEngagement — a free program offered through Mercy Virtual that provides care to patients with chronic medical conditions in their home through a secure internet connection, a tablet computer and wireless monitoring equipment.
Through the program, the Mercy Virtual care team can let the patient know if something looks wrong by monitoring a variety of vital signs. The patient can also hit a button and let Mercy Virtual co-workers know if he or she doesn’t feel well.
Care That’s Just a Click Away
Using the vEngagement program, the patient connects to several devices each day to monitor their weight, pulse rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure. These devices link to the tablet and provide results to the care team. Readings alert Mercy Virtual team members in St. Louis to sudden changes so they can reach out to see what’s happening. They might tweak the patient’s medications or make simple suggestions, like drinking more water or resting for a bit.
Appointments can also be made as needed with a Mercy Virtual caregiver. Murray participates in a phone call with the team several times a month to discuss how she is feeling and determine whether to make any changes to her treatment plan.
A primary care provider, who works in conjunction with the physician-led virtual care team, is alerted to any changes in their patient’s status through Mercy’s electronic health record system.
Dr. Amanda Lewton, a family medicine physician at Mercy Clinic Family Medicine in Neosho, is Murray’s primary care provider. She receives frequent updates about her health through the program.
“Managing chronic conditions is challenging,” said Lewton. “The vEngagement program keeps a closer medical eye on patients in their homes and has proven life changing for several of my patients, including Dolorse Murray.”
Mercy vEngagement isn’t for every patient. It’s targeted to those with multiple chronic conditions who are frequently in and out of the emergency room and hospital. The Mercy Virtual team works with primary care providers to identify patients, like Murray, who may benefit from the program.
Mercy Virtual’s vEngagement program first launched as a pilot program at Mercy in Washington, Missouri, in September 2015. The program is now available in Mercy’s hospitals and clinics in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
In December, Mercy in Joplin, Missouri, and Oklahoma City also launched a pilot vEngagement program to monitor the vital signs of patients with cancer from the comfort of their homes.
Since fall 2015, the results of the vEngagement program have been impressive among the nearly 1,000 participating patients:
- 50 percent reduction in hospital readmissions
- 50 percent reduction in emergency department visits and hospitalizations
- 98 percent of patients in the program are extremely satisfied or satisfied
Because the Mercy Virtual team, in collaboration with the traditional care team, has decreased unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits, this has meant a vast improvement in patients’ quality of life. It means they feel better and are doing more of what they love.
Since beginning the vEngagement Program, Murray said she is feeling much better and able to breathe a little easier. She has returned to some of her favorite hobbies, like gardening and painting, which she was too sick to do last year.
Murray urges others with multiple medical conditions to consider giving the program a shot.
“If you have COPD or a heart condition, you don’t know what will happen from day to day,” she said. “I recommend this program to anybody who is really ill.”
Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems in 2018, 2017 and 2016 by IBM Watson Health, serves millions annually. Mercy includes more than 40 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, 800 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 44,000 co-workers and 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy's IT division, Mercy Technology Services, supply chain organization, ROi, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients in more than 20 states coast to coast.