WellCare pilots telemonitoring program for MA members with chronic conditions

Telemedicine

In an effort to improve care for patients with chronic conditions, WellCare Health Plans is turning to technology.

The Florida-based insurer will pilot an in-home telemonitoring program for its Medicare Advantage members with chronic conditions in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, it announced Wednesday. Health insurance companies are increasingly investing in quality-improvement initiatives for their MA plans, as those efforts can improve star ratings that are tied to millions of dollars in government incentives.

Through the WellCare program, clinicians will use connected devices to monitor a member's daily vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, weight and blood glucose levels. If an individual's vital signs show concerning changes, the clinicians then notify the member’s physician and care team so that they can adjust the member’s care plan accordingly. 

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Real-time monitoring also helps engage members in their own care, as the education and progress reporting it facilitates can equip individuals with the knowledge to react to their symptoms more quickly and accurately. That, WellCare says, will lead to “increased quality of life, comfort and independence.”

"Because chronic diseases can be disabling and may reduce a person's quality of life, WellCare wants to offer convenient treatment options to help our members get the care they need," Tim Mullen, WellCare's chief operating officer for Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, said in the announcement. 

WellCare has agreed to collaborate with VRI, a remote monitoring company, for the pilot program.

Past studies have shown that telehealth and telemonitoring programs can be an effective tool at promoting self-monitoring and improving the health status of patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Some research, though, has been more critical: A study from the Mayo Clinic and Purdue University published in 2015 found that home telemonitoring failed to significantly save money over usual care among older adults with multiple chronic conditions.

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