Thoughtmill telemedicine solution provides co-ordinated care to congestive heart failure patients in Georgia

Atlanta 20 June 2001Thoughtmill Corporation, an engineering and assessment services as well as software design provider for technology companies and enterprise organisations, will develop advanced tools with the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. The agreement to develop this technology is part of a research project, which is being conducted by Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, through a grant from the "Improving Chronic Illness Care Program", funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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"Improving Chronic Illness Care" is dedicated to the idea that United States health care can do better. The 99 million Americans who suffer from diabetes, depression, and other chronic conditions can lead healthier lives. Providers who care for chronically ill patients can be better supported with guidelines, speciality expertise, and information systems. Overall health care costs can be lowered through better care delivery. All this is possible, by transforming what is currently a reactive health care system into one which keeps its patients as healthy as possible through planning, proven strategies, and management.

The goal of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia's prototype project is to integrate an automated telemedicine solution into co-ordinated CHF, congestive heart failure care. CHF is a chronic medical condition affecting approximately 4 percent of residents in the United States over age 40. Frequent Emergency Room (ER) visits and hospital read missions result in significantly increased health care costs as a consequence of poorly controlled CHF cases.

The prototype will incorporate automated, telephone-based acquisition of clinical data critical to successful management of CHF, and direct nurse case manager advice to patients most likely to benefit from an intensified intervention. Ultimately, these initiatives should result in an optimised medication compliance, improved physical function, and significantly lower emergency department visits and hospital admissions related directly to CHF as well as other conditions due to a diminished physical capacity of patients with CHF.

"The outcome of our initiatives will depend largely upon the successful creation of our foundation, a cutting-edge telemedicine system", stated Douglas Roblin, Ph.D, Research Scientist at Kaiser Permanente of Georgia. "The system will automate data acquisition utilising speech recognition software so that CHF patients suffering from visual or physical impairments, for example, will not be required to use a touch-tone phone. The system will also rank the relative risks of deteriorating heart functions and target follow-up by a nurse case manager. To realise this vision, we require a technology innovation partner with health care application experience as well as a track record of success in pioneering new technologies. We've found that partner in Thoughtmill."

"Our software engineering practice is ideally suited to the leading-edge initiatives at Kaiser Permanente", added Heath Thompson, president and CEO of Thoughtmill. "We thrive in situations where innovation of new technologies is required to achieve mission-critical goals. You cannot get much more mission-critical than helping CHF patients gain targeted access to the personal care they require. We are delighted to be working with Kaiser on this exciting project and we look forward to seeing them achieve the goals of improved quality of life for CHF patients and reduced health care costs."

Kaiser Permanente of Georgia is the largest non-profit health plan within the state, providing health care services to more than a quarter million members through ten medical facilities in Metro Atlanta and a network of affiliated hospitals and physicians. The health plan has "Excellent" ratings for both its HMO and Medicare products from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, placing it among the best health plans in the nation and region in providing quality care and service.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is a philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant making in three major goal areas, which consist in assuring that all Americans have access to basic health care at a reasonable cost; improving care and support for people with chronic health conditions; and reducing the personal, social, and economic harm caused by substance abuse, including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.


Leslie Versweyveld

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