Connected Care Reduces Hospital Readmissions

Under the Affordable Care Act, Hospitals that readmit Medicare patients within 30 days are penalized, a policy which has affected 2,600 hospitals in 2014. Such inefficiencies end up costing hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars, yearly, and with high readmission rates linked to gaps in follow up care, including poor monitoring and a lack of proactive prevention services.

Telehealth technology can do much to solve these problems by filling in the gaps in care. One pilot program conducted by the Carolinas HealthCare System found that video conferencing for heart failure patients reduced readmissions from 19.39% to 9.82% over three years. Patients reported an improved sense of accountability on the part of their caretakers and were equipped with a means for timely education and communication from their nurses, resulting in enhanced preventative measures. Patients that opt into a telemedical follow up program have the benefit of a continuous link to care providers, making them better able to self-manage their conditions and prevent readmission.

Another telehealth pilot performed by the Central Indiana Beacon Community reported a 75% reduction of readmissions over a period of 1 year. Of note was one particular patient with congestive heart failure. Prior to the telehealth program this patient had 13 readmissions totaling at more than a hundred thousand dollars in costs. During the program, the patient had 0 readmissions.

Furthermore, Partners Healthcare's Connected Cardiac Care Program found a 50% reduction in readmissions for its 1,200 enrolled patients, amounting to an estimated savings of $10 million. The ability to monitor and educate the patient in a flexible, and preventative setting, allowed both patient and hospital to benefit.

The key to eliminating readmissions is to equip patients with information and support outside of the hospital. When patients leave continuous care, it can be hard to adjust, and many patients never develop the correct habits and processes to manage their health outside a hospital environment. Telehealth connectivity can counterbalance these tendencies, by providing consistent support and accountability for patients. Increased communication leads to better self-care and prevention that translates to considerable savings for both the facility and the patient.

laurel christensen