10/26/2010 by Graham Richard
It was the look on my father’s face when we got in his cherished white Tornado and handed me the keys with a sigh that said it all. He really loved cars. Perhaps it was being raised without one as a child of the depression. Maybe it was his hometown, a city in the heartland of automotive innovation and a short drive to Detroit. He lived the birth of the Zollner Pistons. He saw 10,000 workers make International Harvester Trucks and he saw the impact of the invention of the gasoline pump in Fort Wayne. His gold watch was testimony for 40 years at Tokhiem, one of the three gas pump manufacturers in town. I remember how he loved buying the latest new car and telling Mother that he would “hand it down” to one of the five kids. When those keys to the Corvair and especially the powder blue ’65 Mustang reached my hands, I felt the power of a Hoosier “car guy.” Could the INDY 500 be in my future?
But this day, with failing eyesight, he did not even try to take the test. He would not drive again. He felt like a teenager with no wheels. Stuck at home. Dependant on others for mobility. As a diversionary strategy we convinced my technophobic mother that a computer with dial-up would be a good investment for Dad and keep him out of her hair. Boy was it ever. He became a Senior Geek. And I learned a lot about life enhancing linkages. His desire to learn about using a computer soon got beyond what I could offer so we decided to hire a senior mentor from the nearby high school. This tech tutor for Dad meant a great deal for both. Since most of his grandkids were out of town, it was his weekly tutoring by a teenager that got him hooked online. With special magnification (even as his macular degeneration progressed) he learned finance software, paid bills, sent cards to grandkids, and shared photos with retirees online.
But this is also a story of opportunity lost. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) began to take over his life. Even with two nurses in the family, the disease was disabling him. My wife, Mary, would often say “I just need to lay eyes on Art.” As a seasoned cardiology nurse she knew all the visual clues that were critical to managing the effects of the disease and improving the quality of his last months. Once I asked his cardiologist, “what percentage of your heart patients that enter the hospital would not need hospitalization if you could physically see them in the home before an emergency admission?” His reply: 50% of hospital visits could be reduced.
Life enhancing linkages are now being developed using broadband. Congestive Heart Failure telehealth services are showing us a new way to deliver home based services that improve care, support caregivers, and reduce the cost of unneeded emergency room visits and hospitalizations. There are a number of CHF Telehealth projects that have been generating positive results. Parkview Health Systems in Fort Wayne is in the early stages of a CHF Telehealth project. The Veterans Administration has a program as well.
This year the Center for Technology and Aging made five awards to demonstrate how remote patient monitoring technologies can improve the quality and efficiency of chronic disease management and post-acute care of older adults. One of the award recipients was the New England Healthcare Institute to work with CHF patients. The potential for these broadband Telehealth services to improve care and save money is very substantial. Nationwide 8 out of 10 older Americans suffer from one or more chronic illnesses including CHF. It is estimated that successful use of remote monitoring technologies could reduce the costs chronic disease by over $200 billion over 25 years by reducing emergency room (ER) visits, hospitalizations, hospital remissions and other healthcare services. In a survey of healthcare enterprises that have implemented the MeKesson Telehealth Advisor, results included a 66% reduction in ER visits and 52% reductions in hospital costs.
My father would have enjoyed the benefits of these new broadband life enhancing linkages. They will make later years in life a better experience for millions of Americans.
Graham Richard “America’s Broadband Mayor,” Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana (2000-2007), posted this for NextGenWeb and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.