Population health lessons from Banner Health's telemedicine program

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Banner Health launched its iCare telemedicine program in 2014, but health system leaders learned quickly that an open mind to patient experiences is key to making such a program successful.

When Banner Health launched its iCare telemedicine program, health system leaders learned quickly that listening to patients is key to the success of the program.

The system, an integrated nonprofit network based in Phoenix, kicked off iCare, a partnership with Philips Connected Care and Informatics in 2014. Their original plan called for telehealth clinicians to replace patients' primary care providers. But patients didn’t want to switch PCPs, according to an article from MedCity News.

A year into the program, Banner Health changed gears, allowing patients to keep their original doctors, and enrollment spiked.

Since then, very few patients have left the program voluntarily, and Banner Health saw costs per beneficiary drop by 27 percent while hospitalizations were reduced by 45 percent.

Through the program, nurses and primary care physicians treat patients in their homes and collect and analyze the health data to prevent adverse events. Patients are issued a tablet and traditional home health monitoring tools like blood pressure cuffs and scales.

Patients in the iCare program are also connected to a dedicated team of telehealth clinicians, Hargobind Khurana, the system’s senior medical director of health management, told the publication. 

Early results from the trial, according to Banner Health, included:

  • Cost savings: The pilot reduced costs of care by 27 percent. That stemmed from reduced hospitalization rates and a reduction in outpatient costs. In addition, costs associated with acute and long-term care went down by 32 percent.
  • Fewer hospitalizations: Before the pilot went into effect, there were about 11 hospitalizations per 100 patients every month. After the pilot was installed, that fell to about six hospitalizations per 100 patients per month.
  • Shorter hospital stays: The number of days patients were in the hospital dropped from about 90 to near 66.