Health Commissioner praises local health care initiatives

LAKE GEORGE Sitting in her living room, Flora Mirasola, 78, looked into the eyes of state Commissioner of Health Richard Daines and told him how a computerized monitoring device is helping her stay home with family and out of the hospital where she was several weeks ago for a months stay. The HomMed telemedicine machine transmits Mirasolas vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen levels, and weight, to Warren County Health Services deadquarters for real-time evaluation by nurses. 'This machine is a Godsend, she said with tears in her eyes. I can stay home where I belong with my son, and I feel very safe with it showing nurses how Im doing. Mirasola, who suffers from chronic lung disease, is on oxygen, and was recently hospitalized with pneumonia and serious breathing problems. Daines turned to a television camera and talked about how hed like to see such telemedicine services expanded across New York State. This kind of technology and local knowledge means not only great savings to the state health care system, but it helps keep people at home with their families where they should be, he said. People in the North Country are fiercely independent and want to be at home. Daines visited Mirasolas home to see how the telemedicine device one of 80 now in use in Warren County was operated and accepted by patients needing long-term care. This machine has reduced costs by cutting unnecessary home visits, while improving care by providing ongoing critical medical oversight, health officials said. Earlier Sharon Schaldone of Warren County Health Services told Daines that 80 of the devices now at use in patients homes has lowered the re-hospitalization rate of patients with life-threatening illnesses from about 40 percent down to 12 to 14 percent. The hospitalization rate for the countys long-term care patients it monitors has recently decreased 68 percent primarily due to the machines, Schaldone said. Hudson Headwaters Health Network founder and physician Dr. John Rugge said the machines improve the quality of life and safety of patients, particularly when many in Warren County live so far away from a hospital. We feel much more confident discharging patients, knowing they are having this type of observation, he said. Rugge spent time with Daines, discussing concerns including the doctor shortage in the Adirondack region and low reimbursement rates health care providers are now dealing with. Hudson Headquarters has been seeking to recruit four doctors for about a year, and has only signed up one so far. Rugge said Daines has been responsive to this doctor-shortage crisis, however, by helping launch the states Doctors Across New York program which pays off medical education bills of doctors who practice at least five years in underserved areas. It has been very encouraging to see you address these critical problems in imaginative ways, Rugge said to Daines.

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