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Telemonitoring as an alternative to hospital admissions

July 29, 2013 | Telepresence Options


Story by Neil Versel / Mobi Health News

While other hospitals are trying to comply with a new Medicare policy by assuring recently discharged patients don't have to be readmitted, Orlando Health is trying to prevent inpatient admissions in the first place by sending some patients home from the emergency department with telemonitoring equipment.

The Central Florida health system is a month into a planned four-month pilot of home-based videoconferencing units tied to simple vitals monitors and a visiting nurse program, in hopes of lowering costs and boosting patient satisfaction. "It's about trying to bring quality healthcare to people at lower cost," explained Dr. Timothy Bullard, medical chief of business development and innovation.

Bullard told MobiHealthNews that the program is related to the health system's push to become an accountable care organization.

Orlando Health plans on enrolling about 40 patients with blood clots, skin infections or pneumonia, ailments typically treated with intravenous antibiotics and diuretics for a short period of time. "These are all acute conditions that normally would require short inpatient admissions," Bullard explained.

When patients present at the ED with one of these conditions, attending physicians might offer home care as an alternative to admission. Patients choosing this option are sent home with videoconferencing boxes, custom-built by Orlando Health's IT department on a Polycom telepresence platform, and simple, off-the-shelf vitals monitors such as blood-pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. The boxes communicate on Verizon Wireless or AT&T cellular networks, so patients do not need to have broadband Internet at home.

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