There has been keen interest from many quarters on the relationship between telehealth and the management of congestive heart failure (CHF), in large part due to the fact that there is such a tremendous financial burden incurred by the medical community in this one area of treatment. Congestive heart failure is one of the most prevalent and costly areas in all of medicine, and anything that can be done to reduce the rate of readmissions to hospitals and lower the cost of overall treatment is worth investigating. For that reason, numerous studies have been initiated to determine whether telemedicine can have a positive effect in lowering costs for patients suffering from CHF.
How Telehealth Works with CHF
Telehealth makes use of both traditional technology and cutting-edge technology in providing care for patients with congestive heart failure. Patients enrolled in a telemedicine program are asked to use landline telephones to report crucial data to a medical facility in some cases, and at other times patients will wear devices that are either implanted or attached to the skin.
In both cases, critical data is transmitted to the appropriate healthcare system, so that effective monitoring can become a predictor of general patient health. The success of any telehealth program with regard to CHF depends heavily on patient activation, which refers to the patient’s ability and knowledge to carry out tasks associated with providing data to the relevant medical center.
While not all studies have shown this kind of clear-cut result, one major study undertaken on 3,700 patients indicated that a program of device monitoring lowered the usage of healthcare services by between 15 and 20%. This represents a very promising result in research conducted on telehealth and the management of CHF, but as previously mentioned, not all studies have shown such strong results.
The Illinois Study
In another study conducted in the State of Illinois, the success of telehealth and the management of CHF was investigated on a population of nearly 200 heart failure patients, who had an average age of about 70. These patients were evaluated for a period of nine months following discharge from the hospital for heart failure, and all were enrolled in a telehealth monitoring program.
During the program, patients were measured daily for their weight, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and other vital signs considered critical to monitoring heart activity. This information was transmitted back to a medical facility where it was analyzed by medical personnel. All patients were evaluated in terms of their own activation and engagement, as well as their quality of life for the nine months of the program.
Readmission rates were analyzed after 30, 60, and 90 days following the patient’s original discharge from the hospital, and it was determined that the readmission rate for those participating in the program was 10.2%, 23%, and 29.9% respectively. The standard Illinois State rates for readmission at those same milestones for patients not enrolled with any kind of telehealth program is 17.8%, 27.5%, and 34.53%.
This showed a significant reduction of readmission rates for the patients enrolled in the telehealth monitoring program. Granted, the size of this study was limited in scope, but if similar results could be achieved on a much larger population, it holds out hope that telehealth could significantly reduce readmission rates, and therefore provide some measure of financial relief to the medical system.
The German Study
In a larger study recently concluded in Germany, more than 2,600 patients with CHF were monitored in a telehealth program which included regular coaching and counseling from qualified nurses, regular transmissions of body weight, and sessions with a physician, as needed. All these patients had experienced an episode of congestive heart failure, and the research was conducted with a view toward determining whether there would be a reduction of the cost of their care as compared to a control group, over the course of one full year.
The program was conducted for approximately 12 months, and results showed that the cost of treating the individuals enrolled in the study was significantly less than treating the control group, especially in rural areas. Similar to a number of other studies conducted, the German study reaffirms that a program of telehealth and the management of CHF can be an effective tool for lowering health care costs, and reducing the number of hospital readmissions.
Telehealth with Encore Telemedicine
Encore Telemedicine is a company which is well aware of the health benefits and the financial benefits provided by telemedicine, and therefore offers a number of virtual staffing solutions for medical facilities in this country. Contact Encore Telemedicine to find out how easy it can be to set up a program at your medical facility to relieve your over-worked staff, and to take advantage of this powerful emerging technology.