Geriatric practice keeps patients at home with wireless monitoring

"How ironic that it was technology that caused home visits by physicians to go away, and now it's technology that makes it possible for us to treat homebound patients," Dr. Tom Cornwell tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cornwell is the founding medical director of Wheaton, Ill.-based HomeCare Physicians, a small, nonprofit practice serving elderly patients in a 300-square-mile zone west of Chicago. Thanks to wireless home monitors and other technology, he, partner Dr. Paul Chiang and a nurse practitioner are able to keep tabs on 5,000 homebound patients, with an average age of 80. The clinicians do make house calls, but the wireless technology provides ongoing care to help keep chronically ill people out of the hospital.

"Just this morning, I visited a 450-pound 64-year-old with an irregular heartbeat who hasn't left her home in four years. I placed three stickies [heart monitors] on her chest and--thanks to a wireless machine, a Bluetooth [connection], and technology--I read her heartbeat on my phone within 60 seconds," Cornwell says in the Sun-Times. "It's technology that allows us to do EKGs, vitals, ultrasounds in the home."

He is particularly proud of one patient who had gone to the ER 79 times and had been admitted to the hospital on 18 occasions between 2005 and 2008. Since starting with HomeCare Physicians in late 2008, the patient has had no new admissions and has visited the ER just twice. She's also taking four fewer prescriptions than before, saving hundreds of dollars a month.

To learn more:
- read this Chicago Sun-Times story