Recent Health Hero Network successes of deployments with Medicare and Veterans Affairs signal new era of telehealth

Palo Alto 23 January 2009The first large-scale, multi-year roll-outs and evaluations of Health Hero Network's Health Buddy System have shown success in helping improve the care of high-cost Medicare beneficiaries and veterans while reducing costs and hospitalizations - signaling a new era of telehealth that will reshape an American health care landscape strained by an aging population, a reduction in caregivers and shrinking financial resources.


"Every evaluation of health care interventions supported by the Health Buddy System to date shows a profound impact on the health and utilization of health care of individuals with chronic conditions", Health Hero CEO Derek Newell stated. "We believe that chronic care programmes supported by the Health Buddy System offer real hope that we can provide a superior quality of life for individuals who struggle with these conditions while making the costs of their care manageable for the health care system and society - not just in the United States, but around the globe."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are extending and expanding Health Hero Network's Health Buddy Project, designed to show how doctors, nurses, and patients using telehealth technology can improve care and reduce hospitalizations associated with chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease and diabetes. The three-year project, which began in 2006 at medical groups in Wenatchee, Washington, and Bend, Oregon, has been extended to January 31, 2012. The project, being conducted in partnership with the American Medical Group Association, will also potentially be allowed to expand to one additional site in the second year of the extended programme.

The announcement comes on the heels of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs' publication of four years of data showing a reduction of 19 percent in hospitalizations and 25 percent in bed days of care among a population of 17.025 veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affair's Care Co-ordination and Home Telehealth (CCHT) Programme. Health Hero Network has been the leading provider of telehealth technology to the CCHT programme.

The company's Health Buddy System, the telehealth platform deployed extensively by the Veterans Affairs (VA) and used in the CMS Health Buddy Project, helps individuals with chronic conditions stay healthier while empowering their caregivers with knowledge to keep complications from worsening to the point where those individuals need to be hospitalized. Since late 2007, Health Hero Network has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Bosch North America.

The Health Buddy System supports individuals with chronic conditions in self-care, while keeping them in daily contact with their caregivers. Individuals who use the system get support in self-care behaviours - including medication compliance, diet, and exercise - tailored to their unique conditions. Their caregivers get an actionable stream of knowledge to make targeted interventions at the first sign of symptoms or gaps in behavioural or knowledge that - left unremediated - could lead to a painful and expensive hospitalization.

The Health Buddy Project is being conducted under Medicare's Care Management for High-Cost Beneficiaries Demonstration. The project brings Health Hero Network together with the American Medical Group Association, as well as Wenatchee Valley Medical Center in Wenatchee, Washington, and Bend Memorial Clinic in Bend, Oregon. The programme's design involves supporting physicians, nurses, and Medicare beneficiaries with the Health Buddy System in a relationship that keeps those beneficiaries healthier and out of the hospital through self-care and early detection of complications.

"The programmes in the demonstration have had a positive impact on selected high-cost Medicare beneficiaries and have met and/or exceeded the savings target required in the demonstration agreement", the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated when they announced the extension of the Health Buddy Project, as well as two other Care Management for High-Cost Beneficiaries programmes. "By extending the demonstration for another 3 years and frequently evaluating their financial status, each of the programmes would have the opportunity to continue to impact their populations, maximize savings, and assist CMS in determining the replicability of the programmes."

In a groundbreaking study published December 31 in The Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health, VA clinicians revealed the outcomes of the first multi-year evaluation at scale of the agency's Care Co-ordination Home Telehealth Programme. Researchers reported that telehealth initiatives successfully reduced hospitalizations by up to 20 percent and improved the overall health conditions of patients who used the systems.

VA researchers praised telehealth systems for being able to provide daily contact with a patient base dispersed over wide geographies and for the behavioural improvements seen in patients who were presented with daily assessments through telehealth devices. The study also cited the programme's modest cost of $1600 per enrolled patient per year. The VA plans to rapidly expand the deployment of its telehealth programme, forecasting more than 50.000 patients will be monitored on telehealth systems by 2011.

"The policy effects that result from the implementation of CCHT are profound", VA researchers stated in the findings of their recent paper. "If 50 percent of patients requiring non-institutional care can ultimately be managed in a way that means they get improved access to care at lower cost and higher quality, then this represents an important advance. It means that a low cost and flexible solution will be available to deal with the large numbers of patients with chronic care conditions that health care systems know they need to serve."

Renowned for ease of use, the Health Buddy System empowers patients and the people who care for them by improving patient self-care and behaviour while enabling care providers to access timely information and intervene before conditions become acute. The system's features start with the Health Buddy appliance and other licensee devices that allow patients to communicate with health care professionals by answering a small number of daily questions related to their medical condition and activities. The system offers analytics that then stratify and present this data - through a secure Web-based interface called the Health Buddy Desktop - to empower health care professionals to quickly identify problems and take corrective action.

The Health Buddy System features health management programmes delivering personalized daily monitoring and patient education in order to promote positive behaviour change and provide timely, relevant, and actionable information to care providers; many Health Hero Network programmes are certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Health Hero Network customers are using programmes, delivered on the Health Buddy System, that cover a wide range of conditions including heart failure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, COPD, and mental health.

The Bosch Group is a global supplier of technology and services. In the areas of automotive and industrial technology, consumer goods, and building technology, some 272.000 associates generated sales of 46,1 billion euro ($63,2 billion) in fiscal 2007. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 300 subsidiary and regional companies in over 50 countries. This worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network is the foundation for further growth. Bosch spends more than three billion euro each year for research and development and in 2007 applied for over 3000 patents worldwide. The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as "Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering".

In North America, the Bosch Group manufactures and markets automotive original equipment and aftermarket products, industrial automation and mobile products, power tools and accessories, security technology, thermo-technology, packaging equipment and household appliances. Bosch employs approximately 25.000 associates in more than 80 locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, with reported sales of $9,5 billion in fiscal 2007.

Based in Palo Alto, 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 care providers, facilitating monitoring of and self-management support for patients with chronic conditions. The system includes monitoring technologies, clinical information databases, Internet-enabled decision support tools, health management programmes and content development tools. Through increased communication, behaviour modification, and prevention, the Health Buddy System improves the quality of patient care. Health Hero Network's systems are protected by 57 issued Unitd States patents. More company news is available in the VMW article Montefiore's CMO and Health Hero Network create partnership to move health care into the home in the Bronx.

Source: Health Hero Network

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