When I was a small child watching Saturday morning cartoons on our 300-pound console television set in my living room, I imagined what the year 2015 might bring while watching the Jetson’s. I looked forward to the flying car that came out of a briefcase, “Rosey” the robot maid and the talking interactive TV set with Mr. Spacely yammering at George all the time. What I haven’t seen so far in 2015 is the flying car…”Rosey” is called a “Rumba” (okay, kind of a stretch but somewhat a help in the maid department,) and that talking TV…video conferencing at its finest! Here is how that talking box is making health care a bit easier to swallow with all these new laws going into effect.
Our US hospitals will be fined an estimated $428 million by the federal government in 2015. It is all a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) called the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). An alarming 2,610 of our 3,369 US hospitals, (over 77%), will be fined under the HRRP in 2015.
The stated goal of the HRRP is to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital readmissions and increase quality of care while reducing the overall cost. Others, like Dr. Peter Pronovost, director at Johns Hopkins Medicine, refer to the HRRP as “a mechanism to reduce payment rather than improve quality.”
Many hospitals just can’t afford to do that follow up in a traditional manner under the current cost and pay structure. The Wall Street Journal states that “small and financially struggling hospitals lack the resources to effectively manage their discharged patients at home. Attempting to reduce readmissions could create greater financial difficulties for them.” Many worry that the HRRP’s requirement for reduced admissions actually “flies in the face of the best medical science and jeopardizes the health of patients.” That would be a disastrous unintended consequence and one everyone wants to avoid.
There is a silver lining on the readmissions cloud however. Telemedicine.
Technology is reducing the cost of home-based follow up care to proactively reduce readmissions. Progressive health care systems like the Mayo Clinic are working hard to develop and define telemedicine best practices and policies. These efforts have saved the Mayo Clinic an estimated $35,000 to $75,000 a year in fines so far.
It seems that the embrace of new video conferencing and connected sensor technologies in our modern hospitals may just be the answer to the HRRP’s call to action and an affordable way for hospitals to reduce readmissions.
Telemedicine reduces readmissions.
Despite some claims that only 25% of readmissions are unavoidable, one study on readmissions of patients with congestive heart failure showed that using telemedicine cut readmissions in those cases by 38-44%.
Telemedicine investments have positive ROI.
The Pennsylvania hospital system Geisinger Health Plan tracked 541 patients using the telemedicine system for 4 years. The net result? A return on investment of $3.30 for every dollar spent on the program.
Telemedicine can relate real-time data.
A telemedicine system can do more than allow real-time, face-to-face interaction between a patient and their care team. A telemedicine system can also utilize internet connected sensors to relate everything form heart rate, to blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight to help the care team respond to warning signs in a timely manner.
In fact, for telemedicine to be a viable option and one that can be covered for reimbursement, the Department of Health and Human Services requires that “you must use an interactive audio and video telecommunications system that permits real-time communication between you, at the distant site, and the beneficiary, at the originating site.”
Given all this, it seems a wise investment in telemedicine today may be the answer to providing better care, reducing readmissions, and ultimately avoiding costly fines in the future.
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About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at email@example.com