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An mHealth Business Plan: From RPM to Home Health Monitoring

VNA of Rockford's telehealth pilot sees success not only in reduced hospitalizations, but in keeping patients engaged after the health system steps aside.

By Eric Wicklund

- Remote patient monitoring programs are gaining favor with healthcare providers who want to cut down on adverse events at home and costly readmissions, but what happens when the program ends?

Officials at the Rockford Health System are pinning their hopes on MobileHelp, which is transitioning most of the patients involved in a recent RPM study over to a subscription-based program that will encourage them to continue monitoring their health. The public-private partnership may even serve as a model for other health systems looking to keep patients engaged long after that 90-day post-discharge program runs its course.

“A lot of what we’re looking for is to empower these people and keep them out of the hospital,” says David Taylor, RN, telehealth services supervisor for the Visiting Nurse Association of the Rockford Area, part of Rockford Health. “They need to be in charge of (their health management) … when we’re not there any more.”

Taylor, who took over the VNA’s telehealth program four years ago, sees RPM as a valuable tool in the post-discharge lifecycle, focused not only on preventing readmissions but helping patients to take better care of themselves. But too often those good intentions fall by the wayside when the health system’s program ends, especially when the provider has to take the technology back to the hospital.

VNA launched its RPM project roughly two years ago, targeting a congested heart failure population with an “extremely high” readmission rate. Patients enrolled in the program were given MobileHelp’s MobileVitals home device, which enables them to track their vital signs around the clock and interact with VNA caregivers when needed.

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According to Taylor, VNA’s project was aiming to replicate the results of a Department of Veterans Affairs study conducted in 2006-07, which found that an RPM program for veterans resulted in a 25 percent reduction in bed days of care, a 20 percent reduction in hospital admissions and a patient satisfaction rate of 86 percent.

In the VNA project, Taylor said, the telehealth program helped reduce readmissions to 15 percent, well below the national average of 22.7 percent. Just as important, roughly 90 percent of the patients in the program opted to keep their devices and transition to a subscription service once the VNA program had concluded.

The pilot, says Taylor, proved to providers that an RPM program could help patients improve their chronic care management and stay out of the hospital. With a high satisfaction rate and a high “step down” rate from the healthcare program to the consumer program, it proved that consumers value this type of platform enough to pay for it.

Chris Otto, senior vice president of MobileHelp Healthcare, sees another advantage for the provider. In a program that transitions from the provider to a commercial vendor, the vendor can absorb much of the technology costs up front.

“The traditional telehealth business model is crafted around a heavy investment by the provider,” he says. “That didn’t have to happen here.”

READ MORE: Telemedicine Success Linked to Workflow, Rather Than Technology

Another factor that could help the business model lies in MobileHelp’s origins. The company is one of several in the RPM ecosystem that began as consumer-facing PERS (personal emergency response system) vendors, modifying their platform to accommodate home monitoring and healthcare-related services.

“We wanted to go beyond a reactive emergency product to a system that would be more proactive in terms of health and wellness,” Otto said in a recent white paper. “To do that, we’ve added several applications on top of our basic system that were complementary to the typical use-case, from activity tracking and medication reminders to the new MobileVitals solution.”

“It’s become a much more holistic solution,” says Otto, who adds the company may be looking at health plan partnerships in the future.

Taylor, admitting the RPM program has been running in the red (“It’s basically cost avoidance at this point,” he points out), also sees the need for better reimbursement. “We should be talking to the payers,” he says. ‘We should also be working with the government …. There’s a real value here that should be recognized.”

The platform also provides continuity, an important factor when considering the target population is dealing with one or more chronic conditions. If and when any of those patients-turned-customers returns to the hospital, information from the MobileVitals platform can be easily added into the patient’s medical record, as it was during the RPM program.

READ MORE: 35% of Employers Use Wearable Devices for Wellness Programs

Dig Deeper:

mHealth’s Promise: Mobility With Meaning

mHealth and Seniors: ATA to Shine a Light on Home-Based Monitoring



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