Telesurveillance is a technologically based modality that allows the surveillance of patients in the natural setting, mainly home. It is based on communication technologies to relay information between a patient and a central call center where services are coordinated. Different types of telesurveillance systems have been implemented, some being staffed with non-health professionals and others with health professional, mainly nurses. Up to now, only telesurveillance services staffed with non-health professionals have been shown to be effective and efficient. The objective of this study was to document outcomes and cost evolution of a nurse-staffed telesurveillance system for frail elderly living at home.
A quasi experimental design over a nine-month period was done. Patients (n = 38) and caregivers (n = 38) were selected by health professionals from two local community health centers. To be eligible, elders had to be over 65, live at home with a permanent physical, slight cognitive or motor disability or both and have a close relative (the caregiver) willing to participate to the study. These disabilities had to hinder the accomplishment of daily life activities deemed essential to continue living at home safely. Three data sources were used: patient files, telesurveillance center's quarterly reports and personal questionnaires (Modified Mini-Mental State, Functional Autonomy Measurement System, Life Event Checklist, SF-12, Life-H, Quebec User Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology, Caregiver Burden). The telesurveillance technology permitted, among various functionalities, bi-directional communication (speaker-receiver) between the patient and the response center.
A total of 957 calls for 38 registered clients over a 6-month period was recorded. Only 48 (5.0%) of the calls were health-related. No change was reported in the elders' quality of life and daily activity abilities. Satisfaction was very high. Caregivers' psychological burden decreased substantially. On a 3 months period, length of hospital stays dropped from 13 to 4 days, and home care services decreased from 18 to 10 visits/client. Total cost of health and social public services used per client dropped by 17% after the first 3 months and by 39% in the second 3 months.
The ratio of 0.50 calls per client to the call center for health events is three times higher than that reported in the literature. This difference is probably attributable to the fact that nurses rather than non-health professional personnel were available to answer the clients' questions about their health and medications. Cost evolution showed that registering older adults at a telesurveillance center staffed by nurses, upon a health professional recommendation, costs the health care system less and does not have any negative effects on the well-being of the individuals and their families. Telesurveillance for the elderly is effective and efficient.
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