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Reducing Hospital Readmissions with Connected Health

March 7, 2019
Meredith Wagner

The healthcare industry is facing a faces a multi-faceted crisis, with a growing elderly population and shortage of physicians to treat them.  Adding to the challenge is a high rate of hospital readmissions, which not only represents a significant cost burden on hospitals and payers, it also impacts healthcare systems’ ability to provide high quality care to more patients.

 

 

Unplanned readmissions account for $17 billion in annual Medicare costs.  In addition, for the 2019 fiscal year, assessed a total of $566 million in Medicare penalties due to higher than average readmission rates, much of which may be avoidable by implementing connected health technologies to deliver better ongoing care and increasing patient awareness and engagement, resulting in not only cost savings, but better health outcomes.

 

 

Post-discharge support

Virtual visits using telehealth technology makes it easy for physicians to follow up with patients regularly to ensure they are following prescribed treatment plans and to verify results are as expected.  If results are either below or above expectations, they can then adjust treatment plans based on results.  Telehealth also allows providers to better educate patients on their ongoing conditions and treatments without requiring office visits, ensuring they have a better understanding of their conditions and treatment.

 

Medication adherence

Lack of adherence to prescribed mediation plans can easily lead to readmissions for patients with chronic conditions.  In addition to enabling check-ins with patients to ensure they are following prescribed plans, a variety of connected health solutions can help drive adherence.  Reminders set up through patient portals and delivered to mobile devices can alert patients, their family members, or other caregivers when it’s time to take various medications.  There are also a variety of connected medication containers that can send alerts to family members of physicians when dosages are missed, minimizing the impact of missed medication.

 

Information sharing

With connected health solutions, not only can patient records be updated and accessed by various providers, from hospitals to PCPs and specialists, but test results and prescribed treatment plans can easily be shared with post-discharge caregivers, ensuring they know exactly what has been done and how to appropriately follow up, whether that’s via virtual visits or in-person visits to primary care providers.  The result is an ability to deliver more effective post-discharge follow-up care.

 

Remote patient monitoring

Patients that require regular monitoring of health conditions and vital statistics can be provided RPM devices after discharge that deliver readings to connected health platforms automatically, rather than relying on office visits that are frequently missed.  These devices can range from connected scales for weight management to wearable fitness monitors, and from connected glucose monitors to implanted heart monitors, among many others.  Their purpose is to provide regular monitoring of specific conditions, either automatically or patient prompted, and new devices and use cases are coming to market regularly.  If readings reach set thresholds, physicians can alerted and can take appropriate action.  For some conditions, that may require an immediate visit to the clinic or even hospital, but for others, a virtual visit or phone call may help evaluate and resolve the situation.

 

 

Certainly, not all readmissions can be prevented, but connected health technologies can not only avert many of them, but they also have the benefit of increasing patient engagement in their own health programs, which tends to lead to better outcomes and overall health.

 

 

To learn more about how connected health solutions can help create better outcomes and reduce repeat office or hospital trips, visit us here.