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Good Samaritan Society: Telehealth services launched

Julie Reichert, a registered nurse with the Good Samaritan Society Home Care agency in Bemidji, shows Lauretta Teich of Bemidji how to check her blood pressure at home using a telehealth unit Tuesday afternoon. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Bemidji resident Lauretta Teich has a new connection with home care nurses.

She is a client of the new telehealth services offered by the Good Samaritan Society Home Care agency in Bemidji.

The agency began offering telehealth as an option to clients last week.

"I really can't believe how it works," said Teich, who has been a client of Good Samaritan Society Home Care since December, when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Telehealth allows the agency to deliver health care through a telecommunications unit installed in the homes of clients.

Angel Normandin, administrator of the agency in Bemidji, said the unit allows nurses to remotely check and monitor clients' weight, blood pressure, pulse, lung sounds and oxygen and glucose levels.

The unit, which runs through telephone lines, also has video conference capabilities. From their home, clients can see, hear and talk with nurses who are back at the agency, and nurses can see, hear and talk with clients.

Normandin said there are many benefits of telehealth.

She said it provides an opportunity for people to stay in their homes longer.

"People are wanting to stay in their homes," she said.

Also, nurses can monitor clients more frequently, Normandin said. With increased monitoring, medical issues can be caught earlier, she added.

Normandin said clients have control over turning the unit on and off, and they can use the equipment on their own for tasks such as checking their blood pressure.

She noted that telehealth does not take the place of home care visits, but is an additional monitoring system.

The agency in Bemidji serves clients in a 60-mile radius of Bemidji, which covers five counties. It began offering services in the area in 2007. Besides telehealth, the agency also offers skilled registered nurse services, homemaker services and home health aid.