Rural Coala

Coala Life and Perry Community Hospital pioneer new rural telemedicine program: Perry Virtual. It is the first rural healthcare program using real-time monitoring solutions for high-risk patients with COPD and cardiovascular disease.

"We are set between Nashville and Memphis—right in the center almost. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Nashville and about two hours to get to Memphis from here. Access to specialists in rural settings such as these is hard. If anyone has a cardiac event, they are at least an hour away from anybody to intervene," says Liane Parker, Administrator and COO of Drive Linden, Tenesse-based Perry Community Hospital.

More than 46 million Americans, or 15% of the US population, live in rural areas. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), rural Americans face numerous health disparities and more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than their urban counterparts. Among the many issues impacting rural America is the recent spike in hospital closures, as more health care professionals in rural areas already experiencing provider shortages have left to find jobs elsewhere. This has resulted in many rural residents needing to travel even longer distances to receive care, and has increased access barriers to both specialty and primary care because hospital emergency departments are a major source of primary care in rural communities. Among the hardest hit have been elderly and low-income populations; both are more likely to delay or forego needed care because of transportation challenges. What’s worse, the trend in rural hospital closures is expected to continue.

While rural health care challenges are nothing new for Parker, she firmly believes that virtual health can be a cost-effective and powerful tool to improve rural health care. Parker, who opposes disease care-focused American healthcare system, strongly advocates the need to shift to proactive healthcare rather than reactive diseases care. "In larger cities we have immediate access to any specialty care we may need. We have innovation and access to amazing technologies. However in rural America we are stuck in an era where you used your touch, eyes and ears and limited resources to treat disease."

At Perry Community Hospital, Parker and team are pioneering rural health by providing state-of-the-art medical solutions to the patients that need it the most. They are enrolling patients in the Perry Virtual remote monitoring program to help improve outcomes for rural Americans. Perry Virtual is using the Coala Heart Monitor to remotely follow rural patients with COPD, cardiac disease and other morbidities with real-time monitoring from the safety of their own homes.

"What we see here, cardiology wise, are the sick of the sick. The ones that, need to be medically managed. They can't be treated with intervention because the disease had been there for long. Coala can be a game changer for our patients. Being in a rural setting, our patients have fewer resources and limited medical professional assistance and consultation. Using Coala, patients are empowered with real-time and home-based monitoring of vital parameters—giving them access stethoscope and EKG right in their home. This gives our patients the confidence to connect with physicians over their smartphone and discuss when required. It's awesome for us to analyze patient's lung sounds and ECG remotely. This can lead to reduction in admission rates and improved clinical management of chronically ill patients, reduction in use of medications and improved quality of life. Coala benefits patients by saving time away from school or work and by saving the expenses of roundtrip travel. We don't need million-dollar devices that doesn't solve the real problem we are dabbling with. Something like Coala that is economically feasible for a patient to diagnose and give biofeedback is amazing," says Parker.

Liane Parker