mHealth Summit 2013: Remote monitoring helps CHRISTUS Health slash patient costs

Cost of care decreased and patient satisfaction jumped in a remote monitoring pilot project conducted by CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas, according to research presented this week at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C.

The project, which ran for one year, began in July 2012, Hank Fanberg, a technology advocate at CHRISTUS, said Monday. The decision to undertake the project, which focused on reducing readmissions among elderly patients with chronic conditions by improving care transitions, didn't happen overnight, according to Fanberg.  

"From a large health system perspective we have to figure out how mHealth fits into our entire enterprise architecture," Fanberg said. "We can't just go out and stick an mHealth application into our system and think it's going to work. We have multiple EHR systems, and more than 800 applications that we support in our IT shop. There's also competition among the other departments for money, time resources and personnel, so we cannot do everything we want to do."

For the project, about 80 patients with an average age of 81 were given a toolkit containing a tablet, weight scale, blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter, Fanberg said. A data review completed for 44 patients who completed the program showed an initial return on investment of $2.44. Additionally, prior to enrollment in the program, the average cost of care for the 44 patients was $12,937; after participation, that figure dropped to $1,231.

Patient satisfaction for the project, according to Fanberg, was right around 95 percent.

Despite the positive financial returns touted, Fanberg was just as happy with the boost in patient satisfaction from a care coordination perspective.

"What we're really talking about is communication," Fanberg said. "These tools enable us to communicate better, more frequently, more meaningfully. Without better communications processes, we won't be able to move the dial toward achieving better care."