, Volume 16, Issue 2-3, pp 101-112

A computer-based, automated, telephonic system to monitor patient progress in the home setting

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Abstract

In this report we describe an automated, telephonic system to monitor the progress of patients convalescing at home. The system includes a computerized central station that is capable of automated voice communication over the telephone, using voice reproduction, and touch-tone recognition. Peripheral hardware in multiple monitored homes need include only a touch-tone telephone, but may also be augmented by inexpensive, rudimentary diagnostic aids, such as a scale for body weight, a thermometer, or a blood pressure cuff and manometer. Current central hardware includes a NeXT computer, a fax modem, and a specialized telecommunications modem developed specifically for voice telecommunication using the NeXT. The central station acts like a robotic nurse in that it asks patients a series of questions and records the responses. The subjective questions to be asked are patient individualized and pre-selected by the physician from a question menu including items targeted specifically for the patient's disease or condition. In addition, clinical data such as body weight, blood pressure, and body temperature obtained from in-home diagnostic aids may be transmitted to the central station over the telephone using touch tones. The time-of-day and frequency of calling are pre-selectable, according to the patient's preference and clinical status. Data obtained by the central station can be easily accessed by the duty nurse via menu driven software. Reports depicting significant responses as a function of time are generated in graphical format to facilitate rapid identification of adverse trends. Hard copy reports can be dispersed directly by fax. Results from a pilot study show patients with cardiac disease readily use the system without difficulty or complaints. In one patient a five pound increase in body weight was detected, which prompted the patient's cardiologist to adjust his medication. In this way automated telephone follow-up can provide early detection of complications before they become severe, making the home environment safer and more secure for convalescence and contributing to reduced health-care costs.