ICHS pilots at-home monitoring tools to improve virtual care of high-risk patients

As one of 20 national pilot sites, ICHS patients will screen and manage chronic conditions from home for better preventive health care and virtual visits. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) has selected International Community Health Services (ICHS) as one of 20 health centers in 16 states to participate in “Leading Change: Transforming At-Home Care,” a cutting-edge pilot project offering tools for self-care and remote monitoring for better patient health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted ICHS to reimagine how to manage preventive and virtual care for patients with chronic diseases when regular in-person visits are difficult or no longer feasible. Remote patient monitoring can provide providers with important information and context that might otherwise be missed during a virtual visit.

“ICHS is honored to be chosen for this timely initiative,” said Dr. Beth Weitensteiner, assistant medical director of the ICHS Holly Park Clinic,  who will drive ICHS’s participation in the project. “It’s important we continue to see patients with chronic conditions throughout the pandemic. This strategy provides them with tools and information they can use to care for themselves at home with our help. Further empowering patients allows us to better identify new symptoms and potential emergencies, which could be lifesaving.”

Twenty high-risk patients from the ICHS Holly Park Clinic will be given a patient home care kit that includes materials for colorectal cancer screening, a home blood-sugar monitor for diabetes, a blood pressure monitor, a thermometer and scale. They will also receive educational materials and regular virtual visits from ICHS staff and providers.

“This pandemic has shown us how community health center partners can step-up to transform our local healthcare systems and lead us into the future with new blended care delivery models that include at-home self-care integrated with virtual care,” NACHC’s Quality Center said in a written statement. “These steps have the potential to critically improve the way preventive care and chronic diseases are managed during and beyond this pandemic.”

The pilot is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration and is designed to capture data through June 2021. Among the outcomes, ICHS will provide lessons and best practices that will be shared with health centers nationally.

With many U.S. adults delaying preventive care and with six in 10 having at least one chronic condition including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, regular health management is a matter of life and death with added COVID-19 risks. A large population of high-risk patients who are more likely to suffer from a disproportionate array of chronic conditions are cared for by community health centers like ICHS.

“ICHS serves a patient population that, because of language or culture, has historically faced difficulty accessing quality, affordable health care,” said Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO. “While the pandemic has accelerated the acceptance of telehealth and its widespread use, it has also highlighted disparities exacerbated by a digital divide. In participating in this pilot project, ICHS is serving on the forefront of developing innovative practices to bridge the accessibility gap for those who may be otherwise underserved.”