Telemedicine pilot could be national model for diabetes management

HEALTHeLINK, Western New York's regional health information organization (RHIO), and a designated Beacon Community for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, is testing out telemedicine for diabetic management in an initiative that could become "a model for the nation," Beacon project director Todd Norris told Healthcare IT News.

It's a small pilot now, covering about 150 diabetic patients, and it will deliver data and alerts about blood pressure and other vital signs from mobile devices directly to HEALTHeLINK's HIE platform for the next two years, according to a report at NHINWatch. Ultimately, the program could be rolled out to all 250 of the healthcare providers in the RHIO's network, covering about 60,000 diabetic patients, according to Norris.

Right now the cost per patient is $250 per month, which, he noted, easily could be offset by a single prevented ER visit. If spread over even 40,000 of the network's patients, that figure could be reduced to $150 per patient per month.

With those kinds of success metrics, the program also could be expanded to payers and other community groups, Norris added. One potentially powerful partner could be the Department of Veterans Affairs, who contracted to participate in HEALTHeLINK's virtual lifetime electronic record (VLER) last month. VA officials didn't indicate whether telemedicine will be part of the partnership, but given the VA's existing in-depth investment in telehealth, it's a likely scenario.

Another intriguing aspect of the pilot is the HIE's approach to managing all of the incoming data. Perceiving some clinician resistance to constant data influx from patients, HEALTHeLINK decided to join forces with two unnamed partners to vet the findings, respond to alerts and otherwise manage the data. This could turn out to be one of the aspects of the program that's most appealing to other providers, as it expands.

To learn more:
- read the Healthare IT News article
- check out the VA press release
- get more detail from NHINWatch

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