With each passing month, more evidence is being produced that shows the efficacy of remote patient monitoring – or telemonitoring. The most recent proclamation was a published case study highlighting one of the nation’s leading non-profit health insurance companies, although the company was not mentioned by name.
Seeking to reduce the cost of patients with chronic conditions, the insurance provider launched a very basic telemonitoring program that – to many in the field – would not even qualify as telemonitoring. The insurance company teamed with a home care agency to provide 350 of its in-home aides with tablets that allowed them to track and report on patients’ physical health, emotional well-being, and other key health factors in real time, keeping care managers up to date with actionable alerts they could respond to quickly.
So, telemonitoring was only occurring when an aide was present with the patient, which is not true telemonitoring. Full-fledged telemonitoring programs such as the one offered by Advanced TeleHealth Solutions provide in-home remote patient monitoring technology coupled with a back-end URAC-accredited health call center to monitor the patient around the clock, every day of the year.
Still, even though what this insurance company offered was primitive in its design, adding this very basic component of on-again, off-again telemonitoring had pretty astounding results. Consider the results the insurance provider reported:
- An average of seven prevented hospitalizations per month across a population of 200 to 250 patients, which is a reduction of roughly 30%
- Savings of approximately $3,000 per member annually
- An average of two alerts generated per member per month
- Documented faster response time and enhanced quality of care
- Increased efficiency and the ability to meet new and growing program demands and patient transitions
- Excellent customer satisfaction response from both in-home aides and members
Impressive, Yet Understated
While the results of this effort are impressive, we would argue that this case study actually understates the potential of any true telehealth initiative. When remote patient monitoring is occurring around the clock, the opportunity to reduce costs and improve outcomes is exponentially greater than what this insurance company achieved.
Consider that half of all American adults – about 117 million people – suffer from one or more chronic health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes, many of which are preventable or highly treatable. These individuals account for the majority of all health care spending – money that could be saved with better preventative care and disease management. By applying round-the-clock telemonitoring programs to this patient population, we can improve health outcomes even more than what is being reported here.
True remote patient monitoring uses digital technologies combined with care managers to monitor and collect medical and health data from patients – not from in-home aides acting on behalf of the patients – to improve health outcomes. This allows care managers in the health call center to collect a wide range of health data from patients – including vital signs, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, and even electrocardiograms – around the clock. These care managers can then proactively identify emerging issues before they become full-blown problems and provide immediate interventions – leading to improved outcome measures, reduced hospitalizations, and reduced E.D. visits.
Imagine the results this national insurance provider could have achieved with a full-blown telemonitoring program, not one that simply relied on aides to transmit data back to the home care team. For instance, in our own study, we witnessed a 73% reduction in 30-day readmission rates for patients enrolled in our CHF disease management program. We also achieved a 50% decrease in emergency room visits for all telemonitoring patients enrolled in our study.
As impressive as the case study is, telemonitoring is capable of providing even better results.
About Karen Thomas
Karen Thomas is a certified management accountant and the president of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions, one of the leading telehealth monitoring companies in the U.S. Karen is a nationally renowned speaker, a lecturer for Missouri State University’s graduate-level Health Care Administration program, and a contributing author to, “Home Telehealth: Connecting Care Within the Community,” published by Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. Karen has appeared on numerous webinars and has spoken at dozens of conferences on the benefits of remote patient monitoring, generating enhanced clinical outcomes, patient engagement, and coordination of care. She is a member of the Missouri Governors Innovation Task Force, a past board member of the National Association for Home Care and Private Duty Home Care Association, a member of the American Telemedicine Association and the American Society on Aging, and a past ex-officio member of the advisory board of HealthCare Technology Association of America.