Grant funds provide remote patient monitoring kits for rural, high-risk obstetrics (OB) patients
Devils Lake, N.D. Earlier this year, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) Caring Foundation announced the recipients of its 2023 BUILD grants. Among them was Altru Clinic Devils Lake. Altru Clinic Devils Lake is located in Ramsey County and serves patients from many surrounding counties such as Benson, Eddy, Rolette, Nelson and Towner as well as the Spirit Lake Reservation. They signed up for a BUILD grant to expand their remote patient monitoring (RPM) program to serve rural, high-risk pregnant or postpartum patients. The grant funds were used to purchase RPM kits which included oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, a tablet device for tracking test results and the cables and power cords needed to connect and charge the devices.
Supporting patients with high-risk pregnancies
Many pregnancy complications like gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and eclampsia are related to high blood pressure. By monitoring daily blood pressure and blood oxygen levels at home and contacting their provider if results are higher than normal, patients can be proactive in their care.
The cost of equipment for home monitoring is often a barrier, along with the education on how to properly self-measure blood pressure and understand normal and abnormal ranges. Thankfully, Altru’s RPM program takes the guess work out of the process. Altru staff meet directly with the patient to set up the equipment, provide education on readings and monitors results daily, in partnership with the patient’s physician. If an abnormal result comes through, it can be addressed in the moment through a retake of the test or suggestion for follow up care. This way, the issue does not go unnoticed for weeks at a time without intervention.
“Most women who have a history of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia or gestational hypertension are at a higher risk with subsequent pregnancies. So, it's better to get them monitored early in their pregnancy so we can start blood pressure medications and other care to prevent complications from becoming out of control,” shared Altru Transitional Care Coordinator for Home Health, Melissa Gilmore.
Improving access in rural communities
A major factor for small towns is finding health care close to home. The 2022 Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) study reported a shortage of primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers in North Dakota even with low uninsured rates and advances in telehealth. This is even more prolific in rural areas affected by access and affordability issues. Programs like Altru’s RPM program help bridge the gap for individuals who may not have the financial means for transportation or time away from work to visit their providers miles away from their work or home. They can comfortably use this resource and feel confident in their health journey.
One of the best parts about the program is that it is free of charge for Altru patients, thanks to grants like the BCBSND Caring Foundation BUILD grant and other donations. Altru staff says they look forward to getting more OB-GYNs involved so they can reach more high-risk patients and continue to expand services to rural communities in North Dakota.
About Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) Caring Foundation
Established in 1989, the BCBSND Caring Foundation (www.BCBSND.com/caring-foundation) is a private 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Through giving and investing, the Caring Foundation focuses on key health issues that help improve the health and well-being of North Dakotans and their communities. Caring Foundation staff work with grantees to support nonprofit sustainability, collaborate on shared outcomes and create lasting change.
About Altru Health System
Based in Grand Forks, N.D., Altru Health System is an independent, non-profit healthcare organization. We are physician-led, with over 300 providers and 55 specialties of care. Altru boasts an acute care hospital, specialty hospital, level II trauma center and more than two dozen practice locations throughout northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota. Altru was the first member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, extending Mayo Clinic expertise to the patients we serve. Altru employs over 3,400 staff and providers who are empowered to fulfill Altru’s vision of providing world-class care to the residents of our region. For more information, visit altru.org.