ACO rules bode well for mobile and telehealth

By Neil Versel
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ACO AcademyDidn’t bother to read the 428 pages of proposed rules for Accountable Care Organizations and the Medicare Shared Savings Program that HHS released last week? Neither did we. But Eric Dishman, director of health policy for Intel-GE Care Innovations, the telehealth joint venture launched early this year, did. And he is encouraged by what he saw.

While politicians, mainstream media and much of the general public continues to frame healthcare reform in terms of insurance rather than actual care (or, in some cases, socialism and Big Brother), actual, technology-enabled reform of the American healthcare sector continues. As proposed, the rules, authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, offer lucrative financial incentives for providers to employ mobile and wireless health in managing recently discharged Medicare patients and those with chronic diseases.

Writing on the Intel blog, Dishman says he is “particularly heartened” to see certain provisions dealing with telehealth and mobility in the early pages of the plan.

“The ACO shall define processes to promote evidence-based medicine and patient engagement, report on quality and cost measures, and coordinate care, such as through the use of telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and other such enabling technologies,” is one section Dishman likes.

“Because of its capabilities with respect to prevention and anticipation, especially for chronically ill people, an ACO will be able to continually reduce its dependence on inpatient care. Instead, its patients will more likely be able to be home, where they often want to be, and, during a hospital admission, they receive assurance that their discharges will be well coordinated, and that they will not return due to avoidable complications,” is another.

“The explicit references to the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring and the calling out of the need to move care to the home shows that CMS ‘gets it’ in terms of the need to ‘place-shift’ … where care occurs away from more expensive settings like hospitals,” Dishman says.

The post echoes what Care Innovations CEO Louis Burns told MobiHealthNews in January. “Dealing with a patient in their home is going to be a critical part of ACOs being successful,” Burns said.

Dishman also likes that HHS promotes the “triple aim” of CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick. In his previous, longtime position as president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Berwick said that care should improve population health, provide better care for individuals and lower or at least restraing the growth of healthcare costs. “ACOs are one of many tools to achieve these three aims,” Dishman writes.

Specifically, the HHS proposal calls on ACOs to “draw upon the best, most advanced models of care, using modern technologies, including telehealth and electronic health records, and other tools to continually reinvent care in the modern age.”