Mercy uses Health Hero's Health Buddy for telemedical support to underserved patients

Laredo 11 October 2001Mercy Health Center and Health Hero Network Inc., an Internet-based platform which enables patient communication for disease management, showed significant health care savings with the Health Hero Health Buddy and the iCare Desktop in Mercy Health Center's Telemedicine Disease Management Programme in Laredo, Texas, while improving the health status of underserved, indigent border residents. Mercy's programme achieved all of its goals by reducing hospital-based utilisation, improving quality of life, and ultimately reducing cost of care to the health care providers while showing high patient satisfaction. A yearlong analysis of clinical and financial outcomes was presented by Mercy representatives at the recent Disease Management Association of America's annual Leadership Forum conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Mercy Health Center, in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, was awarded a grant for this study from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board of the State of Texas in 1999. Mercy Health Center implemented the Health Hero technology platform as part of its telemedicine disease management programme to determine the impact of low cost, Web-based care management technology.

Mercy's utilisation measures included inpatient, outpatient, Emergency Room, post-discharge care encounters and charges. The data analysis compared 1999 hospital-based utilisation data, during which time patients were receiving standard care - care before enrollment in the disease management programme - with 2000 utilisation data, during which time the patients were enrolled in the telemedicine programme powered by Health Hero.

Patients in the programme showed reduced overall charges of $13,159 per patient per year (PPPY) for congestive heart failure (CHF) and $747 PPPY for diabetes. Inpatient admissions were reduced by 41 percent for CHF and 32 percent for diabetes and improvements in quality of life as measured by the SF-12 improved as well. Diabetes patients' improvement in the mental component of SF-12 after 6 months in the programme was 3.61 from 45.00 to 48.61, and CHF patients improved by 12.06 points. In addition patient satisfaction results for both programmes showed that patients found the Health Buddy very easy to use on an ongoing basis and reported high levels of perceived value from participating in the programme.

Changing the self-management behaviour of patients with chronic disease is fundamental to long-term success with any disease management programme. The technology used in tandem with traditional case management allows for care to be delivered in the most appropriate setting. The flexibility of the Health Buddy to be used in a bi-lingual population and the overall efficiency of the technology has encouraged Mercy to increase the disease management services offered. Today, Mercy has expanded their services to include additional disease states and provides daily care contact to over 300 patients, without increasing their care management staff.

"The use of technology not only supports the ability of the patient to become more pro-actively involved in their disease management; it also enables the care manager to target patients most at risk for an impending crisis", stated Tracey Moffatt, Vice President of Mercy Health Center. "Mercy's outcomes reconfirm that the Health Hero technology when applied as a disease management platform enables health care professionals to provide the most efficient method of disease management and acknowledge the Health Buddy as a simple easy-to-use patient communication appliance", added John Ariatti, President of Health Hero Network.

Mercy Health Center (MHC), a member of the Sisters of Mercy Health System-St. Louis Region, is located in Laredo, Texas along the U.S.-Mexico Border. MHC serves Webb County, where one in every three families lives at or below poverty level. There are 40-60 colonias, unincorporated areas with grossly sub-standard housing, in the Laredo area with an estimated 12.000 residents. Many residents speak only Spanish. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) ranked Webb County as 7th in the nation as a "double jeopardy" county, which is chronically disadvantaged in both the overall health of its residents and in the extreme shortage of primary care physicians.

Approximately 50 percent of Laredo's area residents are uninsured. MHC is the safety net for Laredo area residents in need of health care, providing millions of dollars of charity care annually. Given Laredo's proximity to the border and its poverty rate, MHC is actively exploring ways to improve quality of life while reducing its risk as the primary provider to indigent residents. Health Hero Network Inc., based in Mountain View, California, develops and markets a technology platform for remote patient communications, monitoring, and care management. More news about Health Hero Network is available in this VMW issue's article Award winning Health Hero and CyberCare to become telehealth partners while Syzex selects CyberCare as telehealth service provider.

Leslie Versweyveld

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