Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center’s telehealth program, which launched in May 2015, is transforming care delivery to help local patients remain healthy after their hospital stay. To date, the program has reduced the number of return visits within 30 days to less than 5 percent of enrolled patients compared with a Maryland state average of 15 percent.
For Michael Flowers of Hyattsville, the program provided the continued support he needed to take control of his health. Flowers was unaware that he had any existing health problems until last May when he was taken to the Emergency Department at Washington Adventist Hospital after experiencing chest pain. His symptoms were later found to be caused by uncontrolled diabetes.
“When they found my blood sugar level to be 360, I almost passed out,” Flowers says.
“My close friend died of diabetes. I kept thinking of him.” According to Khanh Nguyen, MD, a primary care physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group: “Diabetes is diagnosed typically with a random glucose level greater than 200 milligrams per deciliter [mg/dL] or a fasting glucose level of greater than 126 on two separate occasions. At this level, individuals are at an increased risk for serious health issues including heart attack, stroke, amputation and vision loss.”
Flowers spent four days in the hospital. Upon discharge, he was enrolled in the free telehealth program, funded by the Washington Adventist Hospital Foundation. He received a glucometer to measure his blood sugar levels, online diabetes and nutrition education, and support from transitional care nurse manager Daniele Hill, RN. For 60 days, Flowers worked with Hill through a home visit and ongoing check-in calls. Hill helped Flowers develop a low-calorie diet and exercise plan and connected him with a primary care physician.
“I learned what foods to stay away from,” Flowers says. “If I had any questions, I could call my nurse. It was a huge help.”
At the end of the program, Flowers’ blood sugar level was below 130 mg/dL, and he lost weight.
“I have much more energy now,” Flowers says. “I’m able to enjoy biking and basketball again and am no longer avoiding the stairs.”
Adds Hill, “His willingness to change really made the difference. It was amazing to see him go from a life-threatening blood sugar level to now living a normal life.”