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Satellite Beach Florida: Community Health Program improves communication and lowers costs

Author: Molly Ortiz and Steve Monnier

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

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Celeste is an 85-year-old with chronic hypertension living in Satellite Beach, Fla., a small community of 11,000 residents located 65 miles southeast of Orlando. She doesn’t know much about technology, but she is part of a pilot program, launched six months ago by the EMT team of the city’s local fire department, to help elderly residents more closely monitor their health and avoid costly medical emergencies. The TeleHealth Project includes remote medical monitoring equipment: blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, fitness trackers, pulse oximeters, and scales, all manufactured by iHealth labs of Mountain View, Calif.

Recently, the town’s full-time community health officer – one of only two in the state – was monitoring Celeste’s blood pressure remotely when she noticed that it was increasing steadily over several days. The medic reached out to Celeste before she experienced a hypertensive emergency and got her to a medical provider just in time to adjust her medication.

And there are many stories just like that—diabetics with unusually high blood glucose readings on the verge of hyperglycemia and patients with dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood—all of whom have been spared life-threating emergencies under the watchful eye of the Satellite Beach Fire Department.

Remote health monitoring of citizens aged 55 and over is the brainchild of Fire Chief Don Hughes [pictured, left], who launched a community health program in 2009 and has been on the cutting edge in using paramedics beyond 9-1-1 calls to help keep the community healthy.

“When a senior in our community dials 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, it’s usually not an acute onset issue, but rather a culmination of things that have been going on for a week or so. Maybe they got behind on managing their medicine or maybe they are emphysemic and it has transitioned into a bacterial infection and emergency,” Hughes said. “If someone had been monitoring them all the time, they wouldn’t be in that condition.”

Hughes said the decision to use iHealth products stemmed out of conference that he was at speaking at focusing on community health programs. “There was a visitor there with a remote-monitoring product, so I asked him what the price was. The numbers he quoted almost gave me a stroke. On my way home from the conference, I stopped by a Best Buy and discovered iHealth products on the shelf. They offered virtually every feature that the other company was charging a $20,000 licensing fee for. We quickly realized this was a home run for us, and it was exactly in our price range.”

In just six months, the Satellite Beach Fire Department already has more than 20 citizens voluntarily enrolled in the monitoring program, and the list of interested participants is growing. Those currently enrolled in the program either responded to an ad in the newspaper, or were the victim of a previous 9-1-1 health emergency. “We are very pleased with the results of this program,” said Hughes, “because we know that we are helping our seniors stay in better health.”

The Satellite Beach Fire Department uses a variety of iHealth products in its pilot program, all of which include a feature that lets patients automatically share their health data with family members or a primary care provider. The fire department sets up accounts for each patient so that their daily readings are reported to the program administrator who then checks for abnormalities using the iHealth vitals dashboard.

“We thought we might have trouble convincing the elderly to use the technology,” Hughes said, noting that patients are required to test and transmit their vitals data to the fire department every day before lunch, “but everyone has jumped into this like a fish in water. Our participants, many who still have a 1960s-era TV in their living room, are embracing the technology and loving the program.”

Above Right: Melanie Drake and Eric Tippins, Community Health Paramedics with the Satellite Beach (FL) Fire Dept.  

“This program has exceeded my expectations,” Hughes continued. “We are seeing individuals becoming more accountable for managing their health, and we can give them peace of mind knowing that someone is watching over them.”

Hughes noted that more than 40% of his station’s 9-1-1 call volume is for people 65 and older, and demand for emergency services is expected to increase 75 percent over the next 10 years as the population ages. “From a business perspective, it would be much harder to add fire trucks and paramedics at a cost of $1.5 million apiece, when for a fraction of the cost, this program lets us better manage call volume in a fiscally strained environment and get ahead of the curve,” he said.

Hughes added that there are no costs to seniors participating in the program, thanks to about $10,000 in donations from the community over the past six months, and he hopes that the program will become a model for other fire departments and paramedic services across the country.

“Most small city departments see a program like ours and say ‘well that’s a big city thing – I can’t do that.’ But the reality is that you can, and probably better than a metro agency. Any small town rural suburban fire department can implement such a program and have it be very low cost with high results,” he said.

“That stop at Best Buy was a ‘nirvana moment,’ and iHealth was an answer to a prayer,” Hughes said. “The products have been outstanding, and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

 

Molly Ortiz is Associate Product Marketing Manager and Steve Monnier vice president of sales and marketing, respectively at iHealth Lab, a global leader in consumer-friendly, mobile health devices and apps that enable individuals to take a more active role in managing their personal health. iHealth’s medical-grade products allow users to easily chart their personal health data, monitor for changes, and share this information with a provider or family member using secure cloud connectivity. Visit www.ihealthlabs.com to learn more.

For more informaton on Satellite Beach Fire Dept and its mobile integrated health program, see: www.satellitebeachfire.com/

 

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