Health Hero Network awarded Medicare demonstration project that will use innovative technology based preventive care for patients

Alexandria 05 July 2005The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has selected Health Hero Network, the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), and medical groups in Washington and Oregon to demonstrate how doctors can use home health monitoring technology to help Medicare patients struggling with severe chronic illness live healthier, happier, longer lives, and reduce Medicare spending by preventing hospitalizations. The medical groups are Bend Memorial Clinic in Bend, Oregon, and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center in Wenatchee, Washington. The medical groups will implement a physician-led, technology-supported care management programme for up to 2000 Medicare beneficiaries with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and/or diabetes.

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Health Hero Network's Health Buddy system will support doctors at medical groups in Oregon and Washington in coaching and monitoring high-cost Medicare patients to help them stay healthy and out of the hospital. Health Hero Network has shown, through work with the Veterans Health Administration, that doctors and nurses using the Health Buddy-based programme reduced hospital admissions by 63 percent, which substantially improved patients' lives.

The group has named its effort the "ACCENT Project", Advancing Chronic Care through E*Health Networks and Technologies. It is one of six projects selected by CMS under the Care Management for High-Cost Beneficiaries Demonstration. The CMS initiative will test approaches for transforming how doctors and hospitals provide care for high-cost Medicare patients with severe, complex chronic conditions. The goal is to improve the quality of life for these patients while significantly reducing costs. The ACCENT Project is notable among awardees because it will be conducted across multiple sites and because of its robust use of health information technology.

"The ACCENT Project will demonstrate that doctors and patients with severe chronic illness, supported by information technology, can establish a new partnership to provide exceptional preventive care for patients in their homes, and keep them healthier and living independently longer while reducing costs", stated AMGA President Donald W. Fisher, Ph.D. "CMS is rightfully coming to focus on creative new approaches to managing high-risk patients with chronic conditions. They are suffering under the current, crisis-driven approach to care, and they account for most health care spending. We look forward to partnering with CMS to show how medical groups supported by health information technology will produce great results for Medicare beneficiaries and tax payers."

CMS is requiring that Care Management for High-Cost Beneficiaries Demonstration awardees demonstrate improvements in the quality of care for high-cost Medicare patients who represent most of the programme's expenditures. Awardees are guaranteeing to CMS that they will save at least 5 percent of the total Medicare costs for the patients assigned to them.

The ACCENT Project's key technology component is the Health Buddy system from Health Hero Network. Doctors and nurses at Bend Memorial Clinic and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center will use the Health Buddy appliance to coach patients at home about preventive behaviours that will keep them healthy. The doctors and nurses will use data generated by the Health Buddy appliance to spot problems and intervene early, before patients get so sick that they need to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized.

The ACCENT Project is slated to begin on January 1, 2006, and will last three years. CMS will assign to the ACCENT Project a patient population of approximately 2000 patients who are already under the care of physicians at Bend Memorial Clinic and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center. Project co-ordinators will then actively recruit, enroll and manage CMS-assigned patients with the active co-operation of medical group physicians.

Beneficiary participation in the programmes will be voluntary and will not change the amount, duration or scope of participants' fee-for-service Medicare benefits. Fee-for-service Medicare benefits will continue to be covered, administered and paid under the traditional Fee-for-service Medicare programme. Programmes will be offered at no charge to the beneficiary. Organisations chosen for the demonstration will not be able to restrict beneficiary access to care or restrict beneficiaries to a limited number of physicians in a network.

The American Medical Group Association (AMGA) represents medical groups, including some of the nation's largest, most prestigious integrated health care delivery systems. AMGA advocates for the multi-speciality medical group model of health care delivery and for the patients served by medical groups through innovation and information sharing, benchmarking, leadership development, and continuous striving to improve patient care. The members of AMGA deliver health care to more than 50 million patients in 42 states, including 15 million capitated lives. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, AMGA is the strategic partner for medical groups providing a comprehensive package of benefits, including political advocacy, educational and networking programmes and publications, benchmarking data services, and financial and operations assistance.

Offering primary and speciality care since 1946, Bend Memorial Clinic includes 70 physicians representing 13 branches of medicine. It is the largest multi-speciality group east of the Cascades and functions as a comprehensive referral centre for physicians and communities throughout the state.

Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, established in 1940, is a multi-speciality group with offices in seven communities in North Central Washington, serving an area of approximately 12.000 square miles. The medical centre was founded on a commitment to serve patient needs by providing the highest quality health care and services in an atmosphere of concern and caring, with an organisational commitment of assisting in the development of one of the nation's best rural health care delivery systems. Today, approximately 210 physicians and midlevel providers represent over 30 specialities and subspecialities and provide comprehensive medical and ancillary services to patients.

Health Hero Network develops and markets the Health Buddy system for health improvement. The Health Buddy system serves as the interface between patients at home and their care providers, facilitating patient education and monitoring of chronic conditions. The system includes monitoring technologies, clinical information databases, Internet-enabled decision support tools, health management programs and content development tools. Through increased communication, behaviour modification, and prevention, the Health Buddy system improves the quality of care. Based in Mountain View, California, Health Hero Network's systems are protected by over 55 issued United States patents. More news on Health Hero is available in the VMW May 2005 article Henry Ford Health System implements Health Hero Network's Health Buddy System for heart failure patients.


Leslie Versweyveld

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