Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals use remote patient monitoring to cut readmission rates

Many hospitals trying to cut costs are focusing on reducing readmission rates. Remote patient monitoring may help significantly. 

Preventable readmissions already cost billions a year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — and they could get even more costly due to an upcoming rule that will dock Medicare payments for hospitals with too many readmissions for patients with congestive heart failure, pneumonia and heart attacks.

One tool some hospitals are beginning to use to help cut readmission rates: remote patient monitoring.

With remote monitoring, discharged patients are given monitoring equipment to measure blood pressure, oxygen levels and other measurements. Data is sent to the patient’s phone or other wireless device, as well as to hospital staff. The devices can offer patients helpful reminders or warnings, and hospitals can use the data to determine if a patient needs to make a visit.

The technology’s being used by one Arizona hospital as part of its effort to cut readmission rates before the CMS rule goes into effect in October. Patients and nurses have reported the monitoring has helped to keep patients from jumping to conclusions or panicking when they run into unanswered questions. Nurses can determine whether or not an ER visit is imperative or unnecessary.

Remote monitoring successfully cut readmission rates in a pilot program conducted by Residential Home Health LLC in April 2011. For the 239 heart patients who were treated with remote monitoring, readmission rates averaged 3% over a six-month period, compared to 20% for similar patients who did not participate in the program.

Remote monitoring has other benefits as well, according to a study recently published in Health Affairs. Participating patients lowered the cost of their care and showed significantly reduced mortality rates.

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