As politicians jump on the healthcare reform bandwagon, there is an increased and renewed interest in keeping costs low. When a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that approximately 20% of Medicare patients are readmitted to hospitals within a month of discharge, it didn’t escape anyone’s attention.
In the current model of care, hospitals lack incentives to reduce readmissions, which cost Medicare more than $17 billion annually. Hospitals have no financial incentive to follow up with patients after discharge to ensure their continued health. But now, bills are under consideration that would penalize hospitals for readmissions by offering lower reimbursement rates, affecting their bottom lines.
Yet for many conditions with high readmission rates, such as congestive heart failure or diabetic complications, the time between hospital discharge and the first doctor visit can be critical. Monitoring and intervention can easily catch problems early, when they can still be treated on an outpatient basis.
This presents a tremendous growth opportunity for technology. Remote health telemedical solutions, like the Health Buddy system from Bosch, offer the opportunity for case managers or clinicians to track a variety of factors: vital statistics, patient behavior and knowledge about their condition. These devices can facilitate early intervention before complications become so severe as to require rehospitalization.
As hospitals look to improve their financial picture, these organizations need to look beyond their walls and into the patient’s home. The modest cost of telemedical solutions is a small price to pay for a significant improvement in patient health and hospitalization costs.