- A telehealth pilot being launched at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hopes to ease the stigma around ostomy and help patients adjust to living with ostomy bags.
Developed by UAB Nursing School Instructor Tracie White, MSN, the pilot connects White with ostomy patients through a virtual visit platform twice during the crucial three-week period between discharge and the first in-person follow-up visit.
The telehealth visits are designed to help the patients adjust to their ostomy bags and address any health concerns they may have – concerns they might keep to themselves until that first face-to-face meeting with a doctor or nurse.
“During those three weeks, problems with their ostomies may result in unscheduled visits to the clinic or emergency room,” White said in a press release provided by UAB. “Being able to see these patients and address their concerns without making them drive back to the hospital increases access to care and provides support during this transition period.”
“Many times, patients struggle because they are embarrassed to call or don’t know whom to reach out to,” she added. “Meeting with them two days after they leave the hospital gives them time to get settled at home and figure out what issues are most important to them. Then, after a week, we can discuss strategies to cope with their new situation.”
White’s project is an example of how healthcare providers are using telehealth and mHealth tools for remote monitoring and guidance on chronic health issues they might not want to talk about outside the doctor’s office.
The technology offers people a personalized link to doctors and nurses to discuss mental health issues, obesity, HIV and AIDS treatment, addiction treatment, medication management, dialysis and cancer care, STDs, post-discharge care for transplant patients, even lifestyle and wellness concerns that might crop up during or after treatment.
In Australia, for example, hospitals are using telehealth platforms to help cancer patients cope with the side-effects of chemotherapy.
"Cancer patients already have symptoms from cancer, now they have side effects from chemotherapy, the last thing they want is travel," Professor Sabe Sabesan, director of medical oncology at Queensland Health’s Townsville Hospital, said in a 2016 interview. "So that gives us enormous professional satisfaction that not only we can provide our services but also we have contributed to patient welfare."
White said her goal is to help patients make the transition from hospital to home more smoothly.
“I hope that knowing they already have a visit with me set up for 48 hours after they are discharged will ease some of their anxiety,” she said. “I want them to look forward to that visit and to talking with me about any issues.”