Telemonitoring and Interactive Voice Response Slash Hospital Readmissions
March 14, 2012
By Steve Anderson
, Contributing TMCnet Writer
With health care costs skyrocketing, the clear imperative becomes to do whatever is responsibly possible to cut those costs and prevent what looks like a disaster in the making. And it's no surprise to hear that communications technology is taking more of an active role in the cutting of health care costs. One crucial pairing of technologies, though, is making a huge stride in cutting costs, and without much in the way of risk, specifically, telemonitoring and interactive voice response systems.
In the case of heart failure patients for one major health system, the Geisinger Health System of Danville, Pa., they rapidly discovered that the combination of telemonitoring and an interactive voice response system cut readmissions for heart failure patients 44 percent following the introduction of said systems.
Heart failure patients are often regarded as difficult to manage. They require constant monitoring in a bid to detect potential new heart failures before they can become full-blown events, and in the past, thus required a lot of extra contact lest the patients find themselves readmitted to the hospital. And with Medicare canceling reimbursements to hospitals that have patients readmitted for some preventable reason in a 30 day period, the pressure was on to find a way to keep tabs on patients and catch potential problems that could have been fixed without a hospital readmission.
But with the combination of telemonitoring, in which patients could send weight measurements to their case managers by scales with Bluetooth connectivity, and interactive voice response technology, where patients could call in and provide more information about any symptoms they were experiencing, case managers could more readily catch potential problems before they became much worse. And catching a problem before it becomes a big problem is a valuable, and cost-effective, means of providing improved health care.
At last report, Geisinger had fully 1,000 heart failure patients on remote monitoring systems, and the case managers are responding with big gains, with 96 percent of them saying that they're now more efficient in monitoring patients, and 85 percent indicating that the monitoring helped keep patients out of the hospital.
While this obviously isn't a magic bullet solution to the health care crisis we face worldwide, bringing more technological solutions into play can't help but help, really. The more contact people can have with their doctors in the least invasive, least time-consuming, and simplest fashion possible can only improve the chances of big problems being caught while still small, which ensures the best chances of recovery. And in the end, that's exactly what we want out of health care: recovery.
Edited by Juliana Kenny