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Trinity Health Invests in Telehealth for Home Care

The 22-state health system is partnering with Vivify Health to give thousands of its home care patients an mHealth platform - offering a real-time link to a nurse at any time and a means of reducing unnecessary hospital visits.

Source: ThinkStock

- Trinity Health is adding an mHealth platform to its home healthcare ministry, which serves thousands of people across the country in an effort to keep them in their homes and out of the hospital.

The 22-state, Michigan-based health system has signed a deal with Vivify Health to deploy the Pathways + Home platform through the Trinity Health At Home program. The platform features a preprogrammed wireless 4G-enabled tablet and wireless devices for collecting patient data, including weight and blood pressure.

Erin Denholm, CEO of Trinity Health Home Services, says the telehealth service is designed to give patients “an in-the-moment virtual connection” with healthcare providers who can head off potential health concerns before they lead to costly ER visits or hospitalizations.

“This allows for the visual intervention at two o’clock in the morning for someone who has shortness of breath,” she pointed out. In the past, she said, that patient would be told to call an ambulance or head to the hospital; but with a telehealth connection, a nurse could diagnose the problem and suggest medication or some other treatment rather than a hospital visit.

Denholm, who spent more than a decade with Colorado’s Centura Health, says mHealth and telehealth platforms are a natural fit for home health programs, especially as they transition into accountable care organizations and embrace value-based care principles. By allowing providers and patients to collaborate when and where needed, they improve clinical outcomes; and by reducing emergency care and hospitalizations, they take a significant chunk out of healthcare costs.

Such programs also improve patient morale, she says, and reduce depression.

"As guests in our patients' homes, we can make a greater impact on health and well-being than we can anywhere else because it is here, in this sacred place, that people are empowered and much more engaged in their care experience," Denholm said in a press release. "These technologies will enable us to proactively monitor our home care patients and provide in-the moment interventions that can make the difference between their staying at home or being transferred to the hospital.”

“Our goal is to provide all Trinity Health At Home patients with care that is compassionate, proactive and transforming while keeping them in their own homes,” added John Capasso, executive vice president of Trinity Health Continuing Care, in the release. “By investing in an innovative technology that addresses the unique and immediate needs of higher-risk and rising-risk patients, we are demonstrating our commitment to the people we serve as a health system focused on helping them transform their health and improve their lives."

The Trinity Health-Vivify partnership is one of the largest telehealth deals in the home healthcare industry. All told, Trinity serves some 30 million people in the U.S. with a broad network of services that includes 93 hospitals and 120 continuing care programs that register nearly 2.5 million visits a year. The health system’s home healthcare program is considered the largest in the country based on the number of visits.

Denholm said it will take about a year to roll the program out through Trinity At Home, which serves roughly 80,000 people. It will start in Trinity Health’s southeast Michigan locations, then expand to locations in Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, California, Maryland and Ohio.

The biggest challenge, she said, may be getting the health system’s homecare nurses to adjust to a new workflow that reduces travel time, cuts out most of those 2 a.m. trips to a patient’s home and gives them the ability to sit at home with a pair of slippers and a pet at their feet and chat with their patients via video.

Eric Rock, CEO of Texas-based Vivify Health, says Trinity Health’s goals are typical of health systems looking to extend value-based care to the home. While many hospital-based services are fixed-cost, remote monitoring and home-based telehealth offer opportunities to push intervention-based care that can improve outcomes and reduce wasted healthcare expenses.

“Home health is where these providers go to,” he said.

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