MADISON, Wis. - A telehealth study being conducted by UW Health, so far, has completely eliminated hospital readmissions for postpartum hypertension.
The study, which started in March, has followed more than 100 women who developed hypertension during pregnancy.
After delivery, the mothers enrolled in the study were given equipment that allowed them to have their blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and weight monitored every day while at home.
Using a Bluetooth-enabled tablet, the information is sent to nurses at Meriter Hospital who monitor the vitals of the mothers every day and speak with them using a video chat or by phone.
“It just takes a couple minutes to get it done, knowing I had that resource on the other side of the tablet, or on the other side of the phone for me anytime I needed to reach out to them, “ said Sarah Riffle, a first-time mother with hypertension who enrolled in the study.
Women in the study are monitored for six weeks.
Hypertension is a serious condition that can lead to stroke, and sometimes death.
“I think the only way to really safely keep track of people is to actually check their blood pressure daily,” said Dr. Kara Hoppe, a maternal fetal medicine specialist with UW Health.
It is estimated that twenty percent of women will develop hypertension during or after pregnancy.
“Nationwide, hospital readmissions are going up postpartum and the number one reason for that is hypertension,” said Dr. Hoppe.
By closely monitoring the blood pressure of patients, it is allowing for earlier treatment of hypertension and preventing hospital readmissions.
“We have over 100 patients in the study at this point and we still have zero percent hospital readmission in the women using telehealth from home blood pressure monitoring postpartum,” said Dr. Hoppe.
The home blood monitoring helped Sarah Riffle on her first day at home after delivery.
“I checked my blood pressure and it was the highest I’ve ever seen a blood pressure and I got really scared, so I called one of my physicians and they helped me get started on medicines right away,” said Riffle.
“From there it came down enough with the first dose of medicine that I was able to avoid readmission to the hospital. That was a huge source of stress for me, thinking I could be back in the hospital after I was just for there for three days. I could be separated from my new baby.”
The study is funded through the end of the year and Hoppe hopes to find funding for a second year.
While the goal of the study is to improve the health of women in the study and reduce hospital readmissions, it is also reducing healthcare costs.
“We did perform a cost analysis on this program for the pilot project and we found it not only cost-effective, but also cost savings,” said Hoppe.
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