LINCOLN, Neb. After patients with serious health problems leave the hospital, they don't always know when they should return.
Patients who have chronic conditions or have had major surgeries have to monitor their symptoms every day. Without a doctor tracking their vitals, little health problems can turn into big ones if they slip by unnoticed.
One Lincoln start up company says what they are working on could solve this.
Dr. Richard Thompson, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Bryan Heart and Dr. Ryan Whitney who currently holds the position of Chief Medical Office at Bryan Heart, are both co-founders of the
company, "Together Clinic."
They founded it with a goal: simplify the relationship between the patient and the doctor through the Internet.
The online clinic is what Dr. Thompson calls the, "first real-time patient-provider communication solution." Since 44% of Americans have one or more chronic diseases, the clinic is aimed
to serve the people who need the constant communication.
It works like this: patients log on to the site every day and answer five questions about their vital signs. This includes temperature, blood pressure, body weight and even height. They also rate how they "feel" that day.
After Jonathan Imms had open heart surgery at age 36, he was nervous about what his body would do next.
"It's kind of scary after the operation when you go home is this right, am I feeling okay?," said Imms.
Six weeks into his recovery he says he's feeling in control of his health because he's tracking it every day using the Together Clinic's online service.
Imms said,"I don't have to wait three or four weeks to see my doctor."
Because Imms puts his vitals in every day on the site, his doctor was able to catch his rising blood pressure and change his medication.
The site's algorithm quickly calculates the trends of a patient's medical history using the vitals that they put in.
Richard Thompson, the co-founder and a cardiothoracic surgeon is Imms' doctor. He says the best part about the free service is what it saves: time.
"The doctor's time invested is minutes versus hours for tele-health or tele-medicine," said Thompson.
And for Imms? He says the service is already working for him in more ways than one. It gives him peace of mind making him feel taken care of and also holds him accountable for his own health.
"I'm getting more fit every day - eating healthy - all the things I should have been doing I'm doing now," said Imms.
Jonathan Imms is one of ten patients at Bryan West testing the program out in its "beta phase."
The founders of the company hope to work through kinks and have this free service up and running at more hospitals in Nebraska within a few months.
But their already thinking ahead. Thompson says he's hoping to add market incentives for patients who fill out their vitals regularly.
He even sees "selfie-incisions" as a possibility in the future. Patients would take a picture of their surgical wounds, post it on their profile and then doctors would have access to each of the photos.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development gave the company a grant this past January for their innovation.
The company's founders say they want to keep it "completely free" to allow universal accessibility.