West Health, Vanderbilt team to study automated care

The San Diego-based West Health Institute, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and Omaha, Neb.-based West Corporation this week announced plans to collaborate on a five-year study for automating patient care outside of hospitals and doctors' office. Their goal is figuring out how technology can both provide real-time feedback and guidance to patients and keep care coordination teams alerted before health issues get worse.

"So many patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension unnecessarily cycle through emergency rooms and hospital beds, which are the most expensive places to receive care," West Health Institute CEO Nicholas Valeriani said in a statement. "Through this collaboration, we are seeking to create an automated system of care coordination so providers can intervene before medical problems escalate. This will benefit both patients and the health care system by avoiding medical interventions, costly admissions and readmissions."

In the U.S., doctors and hospitals can't manage patients once they leave a medical setting, which often results in readmissions, emergency room visits and uncontrolled chronic illness. According to the announcement, the organizations will translate medical treatment guidelines into automated clinical and operational workflows, studying their effect on cost of care, caregiver capacity of outcomes quality.

"Every segment in healthcare--payers, health systems, physicians or pharmaceutical companies--recognizes that the healthcare process must be streamlined and expedited in a way that is patient-friendly, similar to the way consumers easily buy books online from Amazon," West Corporation CEO Tom Barker said. "Our objective is to facilitate communications around patients, care coordinators and healthcare providers by leveraging valuable content, personalization, speed, privacy and scalability."

Preventable readmissions for Medicare patients are on the decline as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent blog post from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

After remaining consistently at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries fell to 18.4 percent in 2012, representing 70,000 fewer readmissions. The downward trend continued in 2013, according to the post, with preliminary claims data indicating that the readmission rate dropped below 18 percent in the first eight months of the year, with 130,000 fewer readmissions between January 2012 and August 2013.

This week, it was reported that data from a health information exchange can more accurately identify patients who visit hospital emergency departments frequently than a single site's records, according to research published at Health Affairs.

The study involved 10 hospitals in the New York City metropolitan area participating in the New York Clinical Health Information Exchange (NYCLIX), a regional HIE. "An improved ability to identify frequent ED users allows better targeting of case management and other services that can improve frequent ED users' health and reduce their use of costly emergency medical services," researchers wrote.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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