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Chronic heart failure patients are at the center of the national effort to reduce hospital readmissions. Nearly one in four patients is readmitted for events that likely were preventable, and more than one in 10 patients is readmitted within 15 days of being released, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). The leading cause of death in the U.S., heart failure is the most common hospital discharge diagnosis for Medicare patients, and treatment of them is among the most expensive. As the Affordable Care Act requires hospitals to take more responsibility for patient outcomes, healthcare officials are determined to reduce the number of heart patient readmissions. In October 2012, Medicare began refusing to pay for unnecessary readmissions of patients with heart failure, heart attacks and pneumonia, and in August 2013, Medicare fined 2,225 hospitals $227 million for excessive readmissions in those categories.
A study of discharged heart failure patients who were monitored remotely shows that telemonitoring is a promising strategy for reducing hospital readmissions. Telemonitoring can keep even the most fragile heart failure patients connected to healthcare providers after they are sent home from the hospital. In addition to preventing costly readmissions, telemonitoring has the added benefit of helping patients comply with their medication instructions and improving their quality of life. While patients have the comfort of knowing their vital signs and symptoms are evaluated daily, hospital administrators are learning that telemonitoring can help them reduce healthcare costs and keep hospital rooms free for patients with the most urgent needs.