How Essentia Health uses remote monitoring for accountable care success

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Essentia Health in Duluth, Minn., shows how data from health IT can lead to accountable care success, Kaiser Health News reported today.

Essentia has used telemedicine to remotely monitor congestive heart failure patients since 1998, helping provide the company the "competence and confidence to move forward as an accountable care organization," John Smylie, the company's chief operations officer, told KHN.

As part of the heart failure monitoring program, about 500 patients are reminded by a talking scale to weigh in every morning. The scale then sends its readings to a nurse in Duluth, who records the data. Changes in weight could signal problems such as water retention or depression that require follow-up treatment, KHN reported.

Daily electronic monitoring gets patients more involved with their healthcare, and helps accountable care organizations (ACOs) reduce 30-day hospital readmissions that can result in financial penalties from Medicare, according to the article.

Essentia told KHN that no more than two percent of its heart failure patients are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days of discharge, compared with a national average of 25 percent.

The ACO also uses telemedicine to monitor diabetes patients and others with chronic conditions, according to the article.

But 71 percent of respondents expressed concern about integrating remote monitoring into clinical care processes and existing IT systems, including electronic health records. And 58 percent worried the technology is insufficient for clinical analytics and decision support.

Meanwhile, there's mounting evidence that telehealth is highly effective in helping patients with chronic illnesses manage their disease.

A study published in Telemedicine and e-Health, for example, found patients were highly satisfied with telehealth self-monitoring, saying they quickly received feedback, could tell when their health was changing, and felt more motivated to improve their behavior and more accountable for the results.

One patient who reported taking up to 16 medications told the University of Hawaii researchers that the electronic monitoring lends a sense of control of the situation. 

And research published this spring in the American Heart Journal found that underserved, nondiabetic patients in urban communities who used a telemedicine system were able to significantly lower their blood pressure compared with similar patients receiving traditional care.

More than half of accountable care organizations that responded to a recent survey from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Spyglass Consulting Group are using remote patient monitoring to manage high-risk chronically ill patients.

For more information:
- read the KHN article

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