It is an inevitable part of life that many of us will experience – convalescing at home after a critical-care visit to the hospital. But with baby boomers now easing into their 70’s, our outdated model of “send patients home and hope they don’t readmit” has become a serious issue, and a remote patient monitoring platform becomes an extremely viable solution.
As early as 2000, a report in Critical Care Reviews noted that approximately 7% of total hospital beds, 20% to 30% of hospital costs, and 1% of the total U.S. gross national product (approximately $62 billion), was accounted for by ICUs.1 Today, there are an estimated 74 million boomers alive in the U.S. While 70-year olds account for 2.5 million of the boomers, those just one year younger at age 69 account for 3.4 million. Adults on the trailing end of the era at age 52 number 4.45 million. The patient load in our hospitals’ ICUs will increase in the coming years.
While medical equipment and machinery has made significant advances over the past several generations, advances in at-home aftercare have not kept pace. For hospital executives, it is an ever challenging conundrum. As patient numbers increase, costs climb, and profit expectations pressure operations. For much of the industry, the choice has been to unsoundly rely on improved in-hospital care to translate to better at-home recovery.
It has not.
One constant since the beginning of the doctor-patient relationship has stubbornly endured: if the patient goes home and doesn’t feel right, or if they get nervous that something might be wrong, they pack up and hustle back to the emergency room.
According to a Kaiser Health News analysis of the data, about 80 percent of the 3,241 hospitals the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services evaluated this year will face federal readmission penalties.2
Those readmissions are costly, seemingly defeating the purpose of sending critical care patients home with little more than a pamphlet and a contact phone number. This is especially true for rural patients. Nearly 16 percent of America’s population is 30 miles or more from a hospital with emergency care.3 With a growing number of rural hospitals closing, the situation is getting worse.
Technology Is Providing The Solution
There is promising news. The slow pace of aftercare efficiency, and its increasing costs to hospitals, is not lost on many forward-thinking hospital group executives. “It is absolutely clear that we must implement a seamless patient care experience for those who leave the hospital after receiving critical care,” says Dr. Tom Hale, the former CMO of Mercy Virtual, the world’s first virtual hospital. “What is also clear is that the technology to provide 24/7 patient monitoring exists right now. And not just monitoring, but predictive technology to identify trends and alert both the patient and the care team of an impending issue.”
Mercy Virtual sought to find just such a technology partner in 2012 and, after evaluating many companies, selected LifeScience Technologies in Leawood, Kansas, and their m.Care platform. Today, m.Care’s remote patient monitoring platform powers Mercy Virtual’s at-home patient program.
Mercy Virtual’s critical care patients leave the hospital with a pre-loaded iPad, a blood pressure cuff and a heart rate monitor. Other monitors may be included as required. They and their families also receive instructional sessions from the Mercy Virtual Care Team to ensure comfortability with the technology.
A patient can contact their care team anytime of day via HIPAA-compliant messaging or video chat. Conversely, the care team has real-time access to all of the patient’s data and can contact them anytime. The care team might contact the patient proactively to remind them to take a medication, or to speak directly with the patient if they notice a data point needs addressing.
The combination of real-time, remote monitoring, along with the relational comfort with the care team, provides peace of mind to the patient and their family. Issues that previously resulted in a long and stress-filled drive to the emergency room are now often resolved by a video chat.
The Results Are Impressive
The results at Mercy Virtual are promising. Of patients who have used the m.Care technology, 96% indicate they are satisfied with not just the technology, but with their comfort in using it. Readmission rates have improved by over 50% and overall costs have been reduced by more than 32%.
Rami Karjian, the COO of Medically Home, a Westport, CT company providing technology-enabled advanced clinical care at home has seen similar results. “We have utilized m.Care as our technology platform and have seen greater than 50% improvement in readmissions and significant savings in overall costs.”
With flexible and customizable programs for care teams, the ability to provide personalized at-home care is here. The technological advances enjoyed within the walls of the hospital are now being matched by technology solutions in the home. The results are happier and healthier patients, and more versatile and profitable hospitals providing better care for their patient population.