Geisinger finds telemedicine cuts readmissions, costs for heart failure patients

Heart failure patients participating in a Geisinger Health Plan telemonitoring program were significantly less likely to be readmitted to the hospital, according to a study to be published in the December issue of Population Health Management.

The researchers calculated the program saved $3.30 for each dollar spent to implement the program.

There were 541 participants in the study, which incorporated Bluetooth scales with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution to assess weight changes and ask specific questions about their symptoms. The questions, including about shortness of breath, swelling, appetite and prescription medication management, were designed to detect indicators of worsening conditions.

The researchers credited case managers' prompt follow-up with reducing the risk of readmission, according to an announcement. They were alerted them in near real when biometric readings or IVR responses fell outside of specific ranges.

A patient's risk of being readmitted was 23 percent lower during any given month during the study period between 2008 and 2012. The 30-day risk was 44 percent lower and 38 percent lower at 90 days.

In addition, Geisinger saved about $216, or 11 percent, per patient per month.

A previous Geisinger study, conducted in 2012, also reported success in using telemonitoring to treat patients with congestive heart failure. In that study, the use of the program reduced readmission rates by 44 percent, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

A study published in mid-September of discharged patients with acute myocardial infarction found readmissions were significantly reduced when those discharged patients subscribed to a telemedicine call center that would more efficiently assess the severity of symptoms.

Research published online in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health into the impact telemedicine has on cost, quality and access to care, focusing three chronic diseases--congestive heart failure, stroke and obstructive pulmonary disease--found benefits for all three, but noted that each requires its own approach to treatment.

To learn more:
- check out the research
- read the announcement