At first glance, telemedicine for in-home medical care seems a sure bet given its potential for improved access to care, resource management, and cost containment. Telemedicine should be an easy win with regulatory bodies, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. The crucial test is whether telemedicine provides care comparable to office visits, hospitals, and care facilities. We wrote about the Contessa home recovery care service and Homestead Health Care System’s NurseCaller Call Button Pendant, two technologies that fulfill specific needs of people with medical issues who would otherwise be in hospitals or care facilities.

Earlier this year, three companies partnered in a pilot program to study a hybrid telemedicine model designed to help patients with limited mobility. Capital Coordinated Medicine (CCM) provides primary medical service to home-based settings. Senior Helpers provides nursing assistants and other care professionals to assist senior patients in their homes. Curavi Health creates custom telemedicine platforms including hardware.

During the pilot program, CCM physicians worked remotely via Curavi setups with 33 patients. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) cross-trained as telepresenters from Senior Helpers assisted the patients. The telepresenters used a custom telemedicine configuration that consisted of a Windows-based tablet with HIPPA-compliant software, a tablet stand, a hand-held camera, and equipment to read patient vital signs.

In a joint report of the pilot program results available from Senior Helpers, the telepresenter visits cost 44% less than in-home visits by primary care physicians. Also, seven of the patients visited by the telepresenters avoided emergency department trips that otherwise would have been recommended based on initial phone calls.

Telemedicine doesn’t have to mean that patients will never have personal contact with healthcare professionals. In this pilot program, a combination of a remote physician’s attention and in-person assistance from a CNA trained in telemedicine saved money and provided patients with the correct level of care without requiring trips to the hospital.