Telemonitoring reduces readmissions 44 percent in 4-year, 500-patient study

By Jonah Comstock
A connected weight scale from AMC Health. A connected weight scale from AMC Health.

A new study from Pennsylvania hospital system Geisinger Health Plan shows that remote monitoring of congestive heart failure patients can reduce readmissions by 38 to 44 percent and produce a return on investment of $3.30 on the dollar.

The long-term study of 541 patients began in 2008 and just concluded in 2012. Patients used a Bluetooth-connected weight scale from AMC Health that also included interactive voice surveys about shortness of breath, swelling, appetite and prescription medication management, designed to detect acute events before they happen. Weight data and survey answers were transmitted in near-realtime to the patients' care team, allowing them to respond to warning signs in a timely manner. This is the second study Geisinger has published on this technology.

"Evidence that points to the significant value of remote patient monitoring in enhancing population health management efforts continues to mount," Nesim Bildirici, president and CEO of AMC Health, said in a statement. "We are thrilled that a second Geisinger study quantifies this benefit for patients diagnosed with heart failure. As the nation's healthcare system continues its transition to value-based care and shared-risk arrangements gain traction, reducing hospital admissions and lowering the overall cost of care continue to escalate in importance."

Geisinger enrolled 1,708 elderly Medicare Advantage members over the course of the study, but restricted the research to the 541 members who remained on the plan for the full 70-month study (which included a year of data prior to the start of the intervention). The study had no control groups; instead each member's claims data for months they were enrolled in the intervention was compared to claims data when they were not.

Comparing that claims data showed that the remote monitoring program reduced 30-day readmissions by 44 percent and 90-day readmissions by 38 percent. Overall costs were reduced by 11 percent. Notably, that was the difference between complex care with and without telemonitoring -- not between complex care with telemonitoring and regular care.

The study demonstrates that within a managed care program for over-65-year-olds, most of whom had multiple co-morbidities, remote monitoring and subsequent response from care teams could have a significant impact on readmissions. The study will appear in December in the journal Population Health Management.

"According to research from the American Heart Association, roughly 5.1 million Americans have heart failure, and approximately half of the patients who experience the disease die within five years of diagnosis," Doreen Salek, director of Population Health Business Intelligence at Geisinger Health Plan, said in a statement. "It is our hope that supplementing a strong case management program with telehealth solutions, as demonstrated in this study, can improve on those odds and ensure better outcomes for our aging population."