Health IT

Health plan expands telemonitoring to include diabetes, hypertension patients

A health plan is expanding its use of telemonitoring for high-risk patients to include diabetes and hypertension following a 44 percent reduction in readmission of congestive heart failure patients within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital. Geisinger Health Plan conducted a two-year trial with AMC Health, a company that coordinates remote healthcare services […]

A health plan is expanding its use of telemonitoring for high-risk patients to include diabetes and hypertension following a 44 percent reduction in readmission of congestive heart failure patients within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital.

Geisinger Health Plan conducted a two-year trial with AMC Health, a company that coordinates remote healthcare services and technologies for people with chronic conditions, according to a statement from the company. AMC has offices in New York City and San Diego.

Although Danville, Pennsylvania-based Geisinger has used AMC for heart failure patients since 2008, it embarked on a two-year study comparing readmission of congestive heart failure patients enrolled in the telemonitoring program with a control group.

The telemonitoring program kicks in once patients are discharged from the hospital. Patients get an interactive voice response device and provide symptom information through the device on a regular basis. A case manager also contacts patients. Depending on how they respond to a series of questions, they evaluate whether or not they need to be readmitted. Patients in the control group only had a case manager.

Janet Tomcavage, vice president of health services for Geisinger Health Plan, said in the statement: “These patients are among the most challenging to manage. The acuity of their condition requires constant surveillance to detect emerging exacerbations. If left unaddressed, this inevitably leads to increased emergency department utilization and costly hospital readmissions.”

Most of the case managers said the program allows them to work more efficiently. The compliance rate among patients was more than 85 percent, the statement said.

Other hospitals and health systems have implemented similar programs or are in the process of evaluating them to reduce medical costs from readmission. The European Union is undertaking a four-year telemonitoring study for heart disease and heart failure patients. Healthcare IT and medical device companies are also developing innovative approaches to address the need.

A study by New York State Health Foundation last year, using research from 2008, estimated that hospital readmission within 30 days of patients being discharged accounts for about 16 percent of hospital costs.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Quality Measures Clearinghouse report, heart failure is the most common hospital discharge diagnosis among Medicare beneficiaries and is among the most expensive conditions billed to Medicare. Readmission rates following discharge for heart failure have historically been high and hospitals have made reducing readmission rates a priority.