Florida Medicaid/CyberCare pilot telemonitoring project lowers hospital and emergency room visits

Boynton Beach 19 December 2001CyberCare Inc. has completed a year-long pilot programme with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in which the CyberCare System was utilised to remotely monitor Medicaid patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Based on financial and claims data collected and outcome indicators identified by AHCA, overall patients participating in the study experienced a reduction in health care claims, and hospital and emergency room visits. The results of the study will be published shortly.

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The pilot utilised CyberCare's Electronic HouseCall (EHC) family of products for a baseline group of 21 COPD patients for a period of six months. Results were compared with three years of historical data for the patients studied. The overall cost of health care claims was reduced by approximately 30 percent. Overall claims decreased while pharmacy claims increased, which may have been the result of increased patient medication compliance and information available to caregivers.

Providers were prompted to treat patients through more aggressive means knowing information was readily available on patient progress. While CyberCare believes the results of the programme are significant, due to the small sample size, results may not be reflective of the full potential of the Electronic HouseCall system. The number of patient claims during the pilot study were reduced by 24 percent. The findings supported that the average claim per patient per month for the enrolled group fell to $1207 from $1686.

"These first results are very encouraging, indicating reductions in claims, utilisation, and improvements in patient factors, while maintaining a very high patient acceptance", stated Michael Lemnitzer, vice president of business development at CyberCare. "This pilot project demonstrates that telehealth delivery systems should be part of an integrated health care solution."

Additionally, there was a 42 percent decline in hospital admissions during the enrolled time versus their non-enrolled time. Similarly, emergency room visits were reduced by 66 percent during the enrolled period. The study is further encouraging since COPD constitutes overall the 10th most frequent reason for hospitalisation and accounts for over 565.000 discharges annually in the United States, according to Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Fact Book No. 1, Hospitalization in the United States, 1997.

The project had a net cost to the State of $5235 however the utilisation trends indicated that longer-term use and a larger patient population to allow for more efficient resource of capacity would show significant savings. "The effectiveness of telehealth appears to be demonstrated with this pilot project", stated Bob Sharpe, deputy secretary for Medicaid with Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. "The acceptance of these types of innovative health care delivery solutions may not only benefit the patients, but also those financially responsible for the cost of health care."

Of the enrolled patients, the majority of opinions about telehealth were positive and the discharge results indicated a strong reinforcement of those attitudes. The study evaluated patients using the EHC system for six months and examined the costs of each patient's health care services during that time frame. Patients received telehomecare visits using an EHC patient module, which consisted of a specially designed multi-media PC with video-conferencing, a touch screen user interface and attached medical devices, such as blood pressure and pulse, pulse oximeter, thermometer, and stethoscope.

While enrolled, the patients received regular video visits by health care professionals in addition to regular health care services. The patient module included two-way interactive video and voice technology to allow electronic face-to-face meetings with a nurse or doctor for scheduled check-ups or other concerns, all with 24-hour access. More information about the Florida AHCA pilot programme is available in the VMW July 2001 article For companies and institutions dealing with remote patient monitoring, it is CyberCare everywhere.


Leslie Versweyveld

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