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mHealth Study: Remote Monitoring Cuts Costs, Hospitalizations

A year-long RPM pilot in Pennsylvania found that mHealth tools helped cut $8,000 in annual medical costs for heart failure patients and cut hospitalizations by almost one-third.

- A year-long remote monitoring program for patients with heart failure saved more than $8,000 per patient and reduced hospitalizations by more than 30 percent.

The @Home study, conducted by Pennsylvania-based Capital Blue Cross and mHealth technology company Geneia, compared Blue Cross members equipped with Medtronic’s ZephyrLIFE home monitoring platform to a control group of non-monitored HF patients. The resulting reductions in costs and hospitalizations, officials said, shows that a typical one-million-member health plan could save more than $1 million a year through an RPM platform.

To participate in the program, a patient had to be diagnosed with HF and have at least one inpatient admission or two or more emergency department admissions in the previous 12 months. Participants then received 91 to 180 days of home monitoring on the ZephyrLIFE platform between January 2015 and February 2016. The study evaluated clinical, use and financial outcomes.

According to Geneia officials, the remote patient monitoring platform reduced the progression of the disease, with participants seeing a 2 percent progression compared to more than 30 percent in the control group. In addition, participants saw a new 45 percent reduction in acute hospital admissions, and a net 34 percent reduction in admissions directly attributed to HF.

Financially, program participants reduced their healthcare expenses by an average of $8,375 per patient over the course of the year. And the program reportedly scored 96 percent in patient satisfaction, with that same percentage saying the program “helped me to better understand my health condition(s) and identify and manage my healthcare needs.”

Geneia officials said the RPM program targets elderly patients with chronic conditions who’d prefer to spend their time at home rather than a hospital or group home.

“Not only is chronic disease expensive, difficult to manage and a drain on our healthcare system, but it also takes a toll on patients and families, decreasing their quality of life and often leading to an accelerated transition out of the home and into facility-based care,” Jennifer Chambers, MD, the Harrisburg, Pa.-based company’s chief medical officer, said in prepared remarks.

She called the results of the pilot program “promising,” and said “more of our seniors struggling with chronic disease will benefit from this technology and, together with their provider and the case management team … learn to better understand and manage their chronic conditions and continue to live full and independent lives in their own homes.”

Officials did report one off-setting cost to the RPM project – a 7 percent increase in ED visits, likely tied to the program’s improved ability to pick up on health issues that an unmonitored patient and his/her caregivers might miss. They said the uptick was “consistent with other research that reported monitoring HF patients was associated with a reduction in planned hospital visits and lower monetary costs, despite a modest increase in unplanned hospital and ED visits.”

“Overall, the Geneia remote monitoring study, like other similar studies, shows largely positive clinical, utilization, cost and patient experience outcomes,” officials said in a press release. “When combined with a quality case management program, appropriate clinical support and a robust technology platform capable of collecting and synthesizing biometric device data, the @Home program demonstrates potential to reduce costs, improve outcomes and maintain a high quality of life for patients with chronic disease.”

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