Telehealth, A way to decrease costs and improve care in home health?

Home health is one of the most beleaguered medical services used and supported by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Every year there are increasing regulations and seemingly decreasing reimbursement. Because of these pressures, agencies must look for ways to cut costs while also increasing capabilities. Health systems and hospitals have a motivation to decrease readmissions because of CMS’s Readmission Reduction Program mandated by the ACA. A growing technology that is helping to provide additional services to patients while improving efficiency and decreasing costs is telehealth.


For example, FirstHealth, a North Carolina-based health system that implemented telehealth to provide care for patients that did not quality for traditional home health visits. The telehealth solution is used to help patients track vitals, access wellness information and collaborate with care managers. The implementation saved almost $2 million in reduced readmissions. Another example of a successful virtual care project is Michigan-based Trinity Health. Their telehealth and monitoring program allows for real-time linking to a clinician in addition to home-based monitoring and bringing in physicians by telemedicine if necessary. Nurses are able to respond to problems immediately because they do not have to be dispatched to the home. Additionally, providing real-time communication may increase patient engagement, which in turn improves care and health outcomes.  Trinity has found that their telehealth program greatly optimizes their workforce, too.


Similarly, Colorado VNA began to explore telemedicine earlier this year as a way to expand our care capabilities in a cost-effective manner. Thanks to two of our philanthropic partners, Caring for Colorado and Telligen Community Initiatives, we were able to raise the necessary funds to launch the program this summer. What is different about Colorado VNA’s project is that we seek to decrease in-person nursing visits for heart failure patients by 20% while increasing nursing touch points. Other goals of the project are to increase patient engagement in the care of chronic disease such as congestive heart failure as a way to increase patient compliance with medication plans. Additionally, Colorado VNA seeks to decrease readmission, hospitalization, and ER utilization for targeted patients by 25% or more. These achievements will decrease Colorado VNA staffing costs and ultimately decrease costs to payers.


Colorado VNA is excited for this project and feels that it will be a critical part of our strategy to help patients heal and age at home. The costs of healthcare are not going down, yet the demands to provide much more value in healthcare continue to go up. Telehealth is one way that Colorado VNA is seeking to create more value in the care we provide and as I wrote in July, our CAPABLE program is another way. Stay tuned for telehealth updates in the next year.


Have you been a part of or seen a successful telemedicine implementation?