The more we know — and the sooner we know it — about our health, the faster and more accurate diagnoses will be, and treatments will be more effective. This should lead to better outcomes and lower costs. And the data keeps pouring in to prove this. One of the biggest targets for improving our healthcare system is the problem of hospital readmissions. According to the National Investment Center, $17 billion spent by Medicare in 2015 on readmission of senior patients was “potentially avoidable.” That’s a big number, especially when you consider that its more than half of the $27 billion that Medicare spent on all readmissions.
Alignment Healthcare provides services for seniors on Medicare, and the company decided to address the problem of hospital readmissions. The result was a new remote monitoring program for the top 10% sickest patients with chronic conditions who had recently been discharged from the hospital. Each patient received a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a weight scale. These devices connected wirelessly to an off-the-shelf tablet via Bluetooth. The patient’s data can be monitored by healthcare workers, and the patient can consult with a medical expert using the tablet for a secure, HIPAA-compliant video chat. This reduces the need for the patient to travel for check ups and clinic visits.
The national average for Medicare readmissions is 18%. Patients enrolled in this program experienced an average 7.2% readmission rate, which is a 60% reduction from the national average. If this result could be extrapolated across all Medicare patients, it could mean an annual savings of more than $10 billion. And patients would enjoy better outcomes and a better quality of life.
The evidence continues to pile up; telemedicine can have a huge positive impact on the lives of patients with chronic conditions, while saving enormous amounts of money in healthcare costs.