Area woman helping make medical history

By Melissa Hirschl

Star Trek fans are accustomed to marveling at how “Bones,” the Enterprise’s otherwise down-to-earth doctor, could pull Capt. Kirk out of some alien-imposed funk as fast as you could say, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Since everything in the good doctor’s bag of remedies was a product of science-fiction, no one ever thought of it as prospective 21st Century reality.

It has become nonetheless tempting, however, to hope that, someday, we’ll all be able to benefit from the same kind of cyberspace science.

At present, dealing with sickness and hospitalization can be a harrowing experience, despite all the technological breakthroughs that have been made in the post-Star Wars years.

Experiencing a major illness can be devastating and intimidating to many patients.

To exacerbate the situation, hospitals and insurance companies are always seeking ways to save money, many times by expediting hospital stays, even after major surgery.

Kyrene Corridor resident Barbara Ann Fogarty faced this dilemma last April when she was released from the hospital.

Admitted for quadruple by-pass surgery resulting from a sudden heart attack, Fogarty was released after only a week.

Fortunately, she went home to more than just a comfortable home and doting husband. She was able to take advantage of a medical system that can dramatically improve the quality of life for people recuperating from major surgery or suffering from chronic illness and other health conditions.

“An EKG showed that the attack damaged one fifth of my heart, and within three days I was in the hospital having surgery,” she says.

“While there, I was surprised to learn about a relatively new telemonitoring medical system that would take the place of a nurse  when I got home.”

The equipment Fogarty discovered was the HomMed Monitoring System, a simple-to-use, cost-effective device that monitors people with chronic illnesses and those who need a watchful eye while recuperating.

The system transmits medical data using telephone lines and is individually programmed for patients according to parameters established by their personal physicians.

Linked with a home care agency, the system communicates vital patient data without a computer system or Internet access. Some companies even install the system without the availability of a telephone.

Patients using HomMed are set up with a baseline of appropriate vital sign measurements and alarm limits.

If the patient does not respond or his measurements are outside the limits, an alert will signal a central station and the reviewing clinician to call the patient and ask about his or her well-being.

The patient’s monitored data is stored and can be graphically displayed for analysis by doctors.

In just a few minutes a day, Fogarty was able to have vital signs taken in the comfort of her bedroom.

“I was really eager to try it,” she says. “You’re kind of in shock when you have drastic surgery happening so fast, and this system did a good job of reassuring me.”

Her new electronic “friend” (courtesy of Arizona Home Care) would greet her every day with a verbal “good morning,” telling her the time of day and reminding her it was time to take a reading of her vital signs.

“It would instruct me in how to weigh myself, take my blood pressure and pulse,” said Fogarty.

“It also asked me more probing medical questions, which I would answer yes or no to. For instance, it would inquire whether I wanted a nurse or doctor to call me, which I did need a few times. It also sends information to your cardiologist in time for your appointment.”

Fogarty still had a “live” nurse, Greg Moore, who came to her house a few times a week for about two months.

“He was really professional,” says Fogarty. “He helped me with my diet and gave me lots of useful information.

“The home monitoring device is a fairly new concept,” says Moore, a Chandler-based RN. “It allows the patient to have a nurse in the home every day. In addition to blood pressure, the machine checks respiration, oxygen levels, weight and medical data, all of which gets sent to a monitoring station to be tracked. It can even measures glucose levels and lung functions.”

By having vital signs taken daily, medical problems can be spotted early, before they become full-blown illnesses.

A nurse can be sent to a patient’s homes immediately and adjustments to medication and diets can be administered as needed.

Another benefit of the system is that healthcare professionals can work more efficiently since they can observe numerous patients at a time.

Traditional home-care provides nursing visits on routine schedules, but patients’ medical care can still fall through the cracks if these visits are not on days patients need intervention.

“I think the…system gave me more feelings of security,” says Fogarty, “and was definitely a big help.

“I’ve since moved on and no longer need it. Now I do physical therapy three times a week that involves bicycling and walking.”

The monitoring system has received the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s 510-K Class II status approval, its highest ranking for a non-invasive medical-grade device. Arizona Home Care is Medicare-certified and accredited by the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Information: Arizona Home Care: (602) 252-5000 or www.hommed.com.