What happens when a patient returns home following a hospital stay? The patient may receive a quick follow-up call from his physician or a nurse, but in many cases is left to recover on his own. What's lacking in this scenario is a way to get information from the patient so his caregivers can spot trends and respond in a timely fashion if something needs immediate attention.[See also: Case managers and physicians align in Connecticut care model]
"If a cardiac patient is at home and his heart begins to race, his feet swell or he gains some weight, what should he do? The default option is to go back to the hospital. While that first admission may have been $15,000, that second admission can be closer to $40,000. Furthermore there's the penalty for readmission the hospital faces," explained Robert Herzog, CEO and founder of eCaring, a system that generates real-time behavioral and critical data from the home of seniors and people with chronic conditions.
By enabling in-home healthcare data, aides, patients and family care providers have the ability to enter an enormous amount of real-time data into a system regardless of computer skills, healthcare knowledge or literacy. "It's a missing link to comprehensive care systems by providing care at home," Herzog said. "Care providers can monitor whether medications are being taken, vital signs like blood sugar and weight, spot changes in eating or sleeping patterns…and from that information physicians can develop systematic protocols to changes in condition in an attempt to minimize cost of response."
Herzog shared the following seven ways in-home data can improve the healthcare system, while reducing costs and benefiting the patient.[See also: In a healthcare consumer's world, physician engagement is key]
1. Intervening early
To prevent deterioration and control current chronic conditions, it's important to establish a baseline of what's normal. "Once that's been achieved, real-time information that's web-based can be viewed instantaneously. Trends or significant events can be spotted and responded to quickly. And sequential data can be generated to see why these events are happening," Herzog explained.
2. Promoting collaboration
In-home healthcare data is a low-cost way in which all parties involved in a patient's life – from a panel of physicians in an accountable acre organization or medical home and family caregivers to physicians and insurance case workers – can stay connected, work together simultaneously and collectively come to decisions. "This collaboration reduces cost and improves quality of care," said Herzog. "It fills in the gap between patient-provider communications and prevents different people prescribing different treatments that are cross-purpose of each other."
3. Bridging the gap
"For hospitals, 34 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted within 90 days," Herzog said. "All hospitals can do to assess their health is to look at the data taken before they were admitted, and while they were actually in the hospital. The information flow stops when they leave." The most important thing for readmission risk is whether or not the patient took their medications, adhered to the plan of care, or if there were any critical changes in their vital signs or basic patterns. If this information can be communicated in real time, then a care manager for that patient can respond immediately.
4. Decreasing readmissions
Identifying issues and intervening early in the home can help decrease acute care visits and exposure to preventable readmissions. "That means less ambulance rides, less unexpected and unplanned hospital visits and less potential complexities and complications from those visits," said Herzog.
5. Reducing transitions in care
If a healthcare organization can keep patients at home, they're reducing transitions to other more expensive care settings like assisted living facilities, rehab, etc. "You can lower the utilization of institutional care, which is more expensive and less pleasant for the patient," Herzog said. Patient satisfaction goes up, and stress for both them and their caregivers goes down. According to Herzog, family members who act as caregivers cost the nation's businesses roughly $34 billion annually because of the time they take off from their jobs, quit, leave before retirement or pass up promotions to take care of their loved ones.
6. Increasing education and training
In-home support, education and training helps patients and caregivers, giving them a greater sense of comfort. "There's evidence that when someone is paying attention to you, or looking over your shoulder, you begin to perform better and feel better about it," Herzog said. "Which means better outcomes." This also affects patient satisfaction scores, which have become a major component of hospitals' Medicare penalties. When patients feel like they're being looked after, satisfaction scores go up, which helps a hospital save money while also improving the outcome for patients.
Early diagnosis means less touch is needed and less chronic illnesses occur. "That's less strain on (the) patient and on the system," remarked Herzog.