Since Dec. 8, a small terminal about the size of a sheet of notebook paper and only a couple inches thick has enabled Severson, 64, to manage her health problems in the comfort of her home.
"Oh, I love it," Severson said.
The well@home device, placed in her home on a temporary basis courtesy of Missouri Delta Medical Center's Continu-Care Home Health, does more than just remind Severson that it is time to take her medicine.
With only a short training session to prepare her, Severson uses the well@home device to check a variety of important vitals.
"The monitor will take and record blood pressure, pulse ox, temperature, blood sugar, weight," said Felicia Baker, director of MDMC's Continu-Care. "Different monitoring adaptors plug into the sides."
Standard attachments include a blood pressure cuff, thermometer, scale, glucometer and pulse ox probe among others.
Using the 8.4-inch color touch screen and voice prompts to guide her, the well@home device walks Severson through each of the tests scheduled for her. "It talks to them, tells them step by step how to do things," Baker said.
The well@home device also makes sure the vitals are taken as scheduled by reminding her when it is time. "It says, 'You have things to do now!'" Severson said.
Using a built-in modem, the device sends vitals data back to Continu-Care's office computers.
Severson, who was assigned the device to help her manage her congestive heart failure and diabetes, said she has found the device's educational features particularly helpful.
"It's personalized just for you," she said. "I learn all about the medicine I'm taking. (My doctor) has me on a new medicine and I was kind of apprehensive about that." A quick search on the machine alleviated her concerns.
"I was really pleased - I didn't have to call the doctor or the pharmacist about it," Severson said. "The real important (medicines) - they're all there. You can punch them up and read all about them."
The device also provides access to educational information patients can use to improve their health such as explanations of their diseases complete with a list of symptoms to watch for and control measures to take and recommended diets.
Severson looked up information on low sodium diets, for example. "It's got a big writeup on that," she said.
"It also has the availability for the patient to report health problems such as shortness of breath and chest pain," Baker said.
Severson recalled one night when she couldn't sleep well. "So I went on the machine and punched up some stuff to read about myself," she said.
The next day, she got a call from Baker asking if she had rested well.
"She said, 'I saw on the machine you punched in kind of late,'" Severson said.
Baker said the well@home devices are wonderful tools.
"They decrease the number of hospitalizations for patients by catching the illness before it gets too bad," she said. "What we'll do is we'll use them to assist and get them over an exacerbation of problems such as if they're blood pressure is out of control and the physician is having to make a lot of med changes. We will put this in the home and have them take their blood pressure two-three times per day - whatever the physician orders. Then, after they use it, it will dial into our server and we will have the information on our computer system here at work. The physician can make changes with their medications or see that they have stabilized."
Once stabilized, the patients return the machine so it can be assigned to someone else.
"The MDMC Foundation bought these for us," Baker noted. "The whole setup to begin with was $16,000 - that was the software, two units and all the attachments." Each additional terminal with a full set of attachments costs about $5,000.
Baker said she would like to see Continu-Care get some more terminals. "We are the only company in Southeast Missouri that has these units that I am aware of," she said. "These units will assist us in providing quality care to our patients. We plan to monitor our patient outcomes and expect to see even greater improvements as patients take control of their health."
And so far, feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive.
"That machine is great - it really keeps good tabs on you," Severson said.