New research from Geisinger Health Plan, to be published in the December issue of Population Health Management, has demonstrated that a telemonitoring program significantly reduced hospital readmissions and cost of care for members diagnosed with heart failure.

The program, which incorporated Bluetooth scales with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution from Advanced Monitored Caregiving, also improved the efficiency of care managers and delivered a 3.3 return on Geisinger's investment—in other words, for every dollar spent to implement this program, GHP saved about $3.30. The savings amounted to approximately $216, or 11 percent per patient per month between 2008 and 2012.

A total of 541 members were included in the final evaluation. These patients were all GHP Medicare Advantage plan members, who were at least 65 years old with confirmed heart failure, and who maintained their plan membership for the 70-month study period. They had a high prevalence of comorbid conditions (most commonly hypertension and coronary artery disease) and incurred a significant cost of care (average per-patient-per-month cost of approximately $1,600).

The implementation of the telemonitoring program delivered an 11 percent cost savings during the study period, which is in addition to cost savings attributable to complex care management alone. The members in the sample group experienced significant reductions in their probability of hospital admissions, as well as 30-day and 90-day readmissions in a given month. The study showed that the odds of a patient being admitted to the hospital in any given month were 23 percent lower during the months when they were enrolled in the telemonitoring program; their odds of 30-day and 90-day readmissions were reduced 44 percent and 38 percent respectively.

Enrollment in the telemonitoring program was voluntary. To participate in the program, the participant needed a landline or cellular phone service to enable transmission of weight measurements via the Bluetooth-enabled scale and for the IVR calls.

The IVR solution included a list of questions specifically designed to detect changes in physical condition indicating exacerbation, such as shortness of breath, swelling, appetite and prescription medication management. This information was then used by case managers to identify patients who were trending toward an acute event so they could work with the member and his/her healthcare team to create the appropriate intervention before a more significant healthcare issue occurred.

The study is available here.

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