Telehealth pilot helps Banner Health cut costs, hospitalizations

A telehealth pilot at Phoenix, Arizona-based Banner Health's reduced costs, hospitalizations and hospital stays, the health system announced this week.

The 23-hospital system conducted the Intensive Ambulatory Care pilot program to help patients with multiple chronic conditions while addressing the shift toward care based on value. The program started in 2013 and assessed the care of 135 patients.

Through the program, nurses and primary care physicians treat patients from their homes and collect and analyze the health data to prevent adverse events.

Results from the trial, according to Banner Health, include:

  • 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.

Arizona is one of many states grappling with a shortage of primary care providers, and is turning to tools like telemedicine to reach people who need care the most. The Arizona Telemedicine Program at the University of Arizona, for example, reaches people in outlying areas who would have to drive into Phoenix or Tucson for care.

This week, the American Telemedicine Association unveiled updated analysis of telemedicine adoption in all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 13 indicators, including parity laws. Arizona received a grade of "C" for its telemedicine parity laws. 

"As we continue to expand this program, we anticipate seeing further proof that telehealth programs can address readmissions rates, reduce costs, and improve the health and quality of life for patients with multiple chronic diseases," Hargobind Khurana, M.D., senior medical director of Health Management at Banner, said in the announcement. 

Currently the program has 500 patients enrolled.

To learn more:
- read the announcement