County Executive Robert P. Astorino today launched an innovative “telehealth” program that uses technology to remotely monitor seniors’ health as a way to improve a person’s quality of life while also reducing healthcare costs. TIPS – or Telehealth Intervention Programs for Seniors – combines three key elements to help Westchester’s seniors age successfully and avoid unplanned hospital and other medical visits:
· Clinical monitoring of vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and weight.
· A complete benefits “check-up” to make sure seniors are aware of all social programs available.
· Hands-on, intergenerational support from a network of volunteers, including graduate student nurses and college students from Pace University.
“TIPS empowers seniors be active partners in their own health care,” said County Executive Robert P. Astorino. “We value our seniors here in Westchester, and we want them to age successfully. We also realize that skyrocketing healthcare costs require us to be innovative. TIPS is at the forefront, bringing together high-tech and high-touch for the benefit of our seniors. We are excited to roll it out across Westchester.”
TIPS builds on the successful Livable Communities Initiative, which put Westchester on the map as one of the first seven places nationwide to receive AARP’s prestigious designation of an “Age-Friendly Community,” which was given in partnership with the World Health Organization.
TIPS will be available throughout the county at locations where seniors routinely gather – like senior centers, senior apartment buildings, houses of worship, and libraries.
Vitals – including weight, blood pressure, oxygen level and pulse – will be taken by student technicians twice a week at those locations. A nurse will then remotely monitor the results and send messages back to be reviewed at the next TIPS session. If the nurse has any immediate concerns, she may contact the participant, caregiver, primary care physician or on-site administrator directly. Results are given to each participant on a TIPS Sheet, which also explains what the results mean.
By encouraging seniors to be proactive about their health, and by teaching them to self-manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, the goal is not only to improve health and well-being, but also to reduce the number of emergency situations and unplanned hospital visits. Ultimately, this will reduce the financial burden on seniors, caregivers and taxpayers.
A recent study by David A. Lindeman, CEO of the Center for Technology and Aging, found that for each $1 invested in remote monitoring, up to $1.30 was saved in just the first year due to a reduction in hospitalization rates and a reduction in the number of home care visits required per patient.
“Telehealth has become a common and trusted tool to help seniors age better, but TIPS is much more all-inclusive than other programs,” said Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services Commissioner Mae Carpenter. “Westchester is leading the way in telehealth services by combining the best technology available for remote monitoring with other well-established Westchester programs, like Care Circles and Caregiver Coaching.”
Along with the clinical monitoring, each TIPS participant will receive a comprehensive assessment that includes a benefits check-up, information about chronic disease self-management, and referrals for other existing programs, such as Care Circles – a group of volunteers who assist an individual with basic needs of daily living that cannot be met with public funds; and Caregiver Coaches – volunteers, trained by professionals, who help the senior and family caregivers meet their challenges and responsibilities.
TIPS sessions are held in a community setting, allowing for seniors in attendance to interact and support each other in the self-management of health, while the participation of college students as technicians fosters an intergenerational social connection.
TIPS was developed in collaboration with Pace University, a partnership that began in 2005 and expanded in 2013 to include pilots of the telehealth program at several test sites. To date, more than 140 seniors have participated.
“This is a natural partnership,” said David Sachs, professor of Information Technology at Pace Seidenberg School of Computer and Information Systems. “Working with the Department of Senior Programs and Services on this strategic telehealth initiative only makes good sense. We know that TIPS will make a difference in the lives and in the health of seniors.”
TIPS will be offered at an increasing number of sites throughout Westchester by the end of May. The timing is no coincidence, as May is National Older Americans Month, and the 2014 theme is “Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow.”
For more information about the TIPS program, please call (914) 813-6408 or visit www.westchestergov.com/seniors.