We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the perception, satisfaction and utilization of a home telehealth service for frail elderly people living independently in their home communities. Control group subjects continued with their usual care and intervention group subjects were able to supplement their usual care with the use of a web portal. The web portal allowed videoconferencing and electronic messaging between home care nurses and clients, ordering health-related and home care services, access to health-related information and general access to the Internet. A total of 99 eligible people (59 female, 40 male) from one urban and one rural study site agreed to participate in the study. Eighty-four subjects were active participants for nine months. There were no significant differences in perception of technology between the two groups at baseline. At 60-day follow-up, the intervention group was significantly more positive towards technology compared to their own baseline (P<0.001) and compared to the 60-day scores for the controls (P<0.001). The intervention group indicated that overall the telehealth service met their expectations (mean score 9 out of 10) and they would recommend it to others (mean score 9.5 out of 10). All subjects were able to use the portal without difficulty after brief instructions from the nurses. A total of 1054 videoconferences were conducted with the intervention subjects. Fifty-six of these (5%) had to be discontinued after successful connection because of technical problems. Intervention subjects made fewer emergency department visits than control subjects, more visits to the eye doctor, fewer visits in all categories of home care utilization, and lower use of transportation services. Frail elderly people are able to adopt home telehealth technologies which may enable them to maintain independent living arrangements.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study was partly funded by grant 27-60-03010 from the Technology Opportunities Program, US Department of Commerce. The clinical partners were Volunteers of America Minnesota and Tri-County Hospital, Wadena. QRS Diagnostics LLC provided the home spirometers and Nonin Medical Inc provided the pulse oximeters used in the study.