Westchester’s innovative Telehealth Intervention Programs for Seniors (TIPS) had its national debut on June 26, 2014.

TIPS has been in the forefront of the national telehealth movement.

Westchester County continues to lead the way in developing best practices that help seniors age successfully in their homes and communities. It values the seniors in Westchester and wants them to age successfully. It also realizes that skyrocketing healthcare costs require us to be innovative.

TIPS is a telehealth trailblazer because it combines three key elements to help seniors age successfully:

  • First – clinical monitoring of vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and weight
  • Second – a complete social check-up to make sure seniors are aware of all the services and programs available – whether it be nutrition, housing, transportation, caregiving or any of our other support programs, and
  • Third – hands-on, intergenerational support from a network of volunteers, including student technicians and social work students.

Because TIPS encourages seniors to be proactive about their health it will lower their medical bills because they will need to make fewer trips to doctor’s offices and hospital emergency rooms.  In turn, Westchester taxpayers, who foot much of the county’s massive Medicare and Medicaid bills will benefit as well.

A study by a featured speaker, David Lindeman, CEO of the Center for Technology and Aging at the University of California, Berkley, showed that those savings can really add up. The study found that for every $1 invested in remote health monitoring up to $1.30 was saved in the first year alone.

TIPS is sponsored with a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation with additional funding from the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS) and the Westchester Public/Private Partnership for Aging Services. It was developed in collaboration with Pace University's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. The program’s outreach continues to benefit more and more seniors throughout Westchester.

Here is how TIPS works
Ryan Olohan, Google Inc.’s National Industry Director of HealthcareTrained technology students visit locations where seniors gather, such as nutrition sites and senior apartment buildings.  Senior’s vital signs – specifically their pulse, weight, oxygen blood level and blood pressure – are measured using computers and other equipment. That data is then transmitted to telehealth nurses who review it remotely.  If the tests show cause for immediate concern, the nurse will contact the seniors, their caregivers or primary care physicians directly.

Each senior leaves the session with a “TIPS Sheet,” a comprehensive assessment that includes their results of their vital sign tests, an explanation of what the results mean, and, if needed, other relevant information such as referrals.

In addition to the physical check-up, TIPS Social Support Associates (SSAs) speak with each senior to learn if they might need any support services in the county such as nutrition, transportation, housing or caregiving. Because of this personal, one-on-one connection, the county likes to say  that TIPS is “high-tech” meet “high-touch.” 

“Telehealth has become a common and trusted tool to help seniors age better, but TIPS is much more all-inclusive than other programs,” said Mae Carpenter, DSPS Commissioner. “Westchester is leading the way in telehealth services by combining the best technology available for remote monitoring with other well-established Westchester programs through our Livable Communities Initiative.

Two of those programs are Care Circles of Westchester and Caregiver Coaching. A care circle is a group of volunteers who help an individual with basic needs of daily living that cannot be met with public funds, such as walking the dog or providing companionship.  Caregiver Coaches are volunteers trained by professionals who help the senior and family caregivers meet their challenges and responsibilities. 

In coming months, TIPS will be offered at an increasing number of sites throughout Westchester. Read the brochure for more information about the TIPS program, or call (914) 813-6441.

Photo: Ryan Olohan, Google Inc.’s National Industry Director of Healthcare.