Virtual Care for Chronic Care Patients

Jennifer Mallow, Assistant Professor at the West Virginia University School of Nursing http://nursing.hsc.wvu.edu and a Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholar, along with her team, have developed the “Mobile Improvement of Self-Management Ability through Rural Technology” (mlSMART), a web-based program. Patients are able to participate in virtual care to deal with health issues via technology.

The mlSMART program focuses on patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure by providing patients with tools and resources they need to improve their overall health. The program helps patients that have to travel to receive care since some patients have to travel more than 21 miles to see their health professionals.

Mallow established the program through Health Right, a program where providers recommend patients based on patient need. Once enrolled, each participant receives a computer tablet, blood pressure cuff, glucose monitor/test strips, and a scale. Participants also receive free internet access during the 12 week program.

Patients participate in a series of health checks and the data is then automatically transferred from health monitoring devices into mlSMART. Patients can complete healthcare visits, receive feedback from their providers, and track their progress all from their homes. The data is sent to professionals involved in the care of the patient.

At the completion of Mallow’s research study in December 2015, 30 patients will have completed the program, and many will continue to use the system to track their progress and participate in virtual care opportunities.

The team will review the data to determine if the program works for both providers and patients. If the data shows that this type of approach to healthcare is feasible, Mallow hopes to attract additional funding and roll out the program to a broader base in West Virginia.

Mallow continues to develop collaborative partnerships with colleagues to use mlSMART to help with other chronic illnesses such as loneliness and other issues affecting the overall health of patients.

Rebecca Walls, a Family Nurse Practitioner at Health Right sees positive results of the program on a daily basis. She has seen reductions in average blood glucose readings and weight loss since the patients are constantly monitoring their progress and interacting with their health professionals.

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