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Release: Immediate

UI, Kansas firm announce electronic home health care services

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa residents soon will have a new way to manage chronic disease, one that uses telecommunications technology to deliver health care directly into their homes.

The service stems from a partnership between the University of Iowa Health System and HELP Innovations of Lawrence, Kan., to provide health care monitoring and consultation via interactive television.

Dr. Michael Kienzle, associate dean for clinical affairs and medical communications at the UI College of Medicine, describes the service as "personalized telemedicine." It uses the resourceLINKTM developed by HELP Innovations, a cost-effective way to enhance home health services.

"We think this system will be more efficient and less expensive. It may help a home health care provider see 20 patients in a day versus five or six," Kienzle says. The system also could be used by physicians to make electronic house calls.

The service has begun a gradual rollout and will be available in the Iowa City area in January 1998. Eventually, it will be made available statewide in collaboration with community-based agencies.

The resourceLINKTM system is easy to use for both patients and health care professionals. It uses a 13-inch television, a small video camera and a standard telephone installed in a patient's home. To begin a visit, a health care professional simply telephones the patient from the system's base station. When the patient answers the phone, an audio/video connection is established. All system functions are controlled from the base station, where specially designed computer software helps monitor treatment goals and interventions.

"We have proven with real life cases that telemedicine provides a cost-effective alternative with quality outcomes," says Linda Roman, president and CEO of HELP Innovations. The partnership with the UI is the company's first alliance with a university health system.

"The university and HELP Innovations make good partners because they share the same vision and commitment to a clinical, patient-centered approach to telehome care," says R. Edward Howell, chair of the executive committee for the UI Health System.

A joint venture company, resourceLINKTM of Iowa, will offer the service across the state. Its base station and personnel will be located in Iowa City. A coordinating committee representing both the university and HELP Innovations will oversee the project.

"The service is aimed at patient populations frequently seen by physicians and often admitted to hospitals, including those with heart disease, diabetes and psychiatric illnesses," Kienzle says. He adds that by some estimates, as many as 45 percent of home health services can be delivered remotely.

A number of peripheral devices can be added to the system to measure health indicators like blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Kienzle says the types of patients using the system will drive development of new peripherals and other technological advances.

The UI is an international leader in telemedicine, generally defined as the transmission of health information and services using telecommunications technology. Its National Laboratory for the Study of Rural Telemedicine is funded by contracts from the National Library of Medicine. Current projects include long-distance consultations between the UI and remote medical sites, electronic support for emergency rooms at rural hospitals, and ways to deliver educational resources to patients in their homes.