While healthcare companies are struggling to show the ROI of electronics records, there is significantly more progress in mobile health and telemedicine. The Mar-Litoral Integrated Heart Failure Program at Hospital del Mar in Barcelona (ICOR) is helping to improve the quality of life of chronic patients while cutting costs.
Started in 2010 with 200 high-risk patients, the program uses simple technology, including a touch-screen computer with a connected bluetooth scale and a blood pressure monitor to keep track of the progress of patients daily. The patient uses the scale and monitor to transmit the information to the hospital, and answers eight simple questions about his condition. An algorithm checks the information against the patient's database and determines if any action is required. Patients are also required to have a short weekly videoconference with a specialized nurse. If a patient misses a day, a nurse calls to check in, and when necessary, the doctor and patient connect on a video conference. Patients also receive important information about diet, suggested exercise, and friendly reminders to take their medication.
Here is a short video (in Spanish) about the program.
The program was showcased at the recent Mobile World Congress in Bacelona during the seminar "mHealth making a positive difference to end users." The results were quite promising.
"Preliminary results indicate a reduction of 34% in the mortality rate and 63% in the readmission rate. Also we observed a reduction of 41% of readmissions for other reasons, and the cost per patient has dropped 68%," said Dr. Josep Comin, director of the Chronic Heart Failure unit, who added, "It is important to point out the high level of satisfaction of the patients in this project: they feel better monitored and safer. The results show the benefits of telemedicine for old people, regardless of their limited experience with electronic devices." [Editor's Note: translation by author.]
The average cost of treatment of a high-risk chronic heart failure patient is about €14,000 per year for the Catalonian Health Service; that includes hospital visits, doctor and nurses' time, and tests. With the ICOR program the average cost per patient was reduced to €4,500 per year.
Telemedicine and m-health are becoming increasingly important to improve management and care of chronic patients, and as the population grows older, imperative to reduce the increasing cost of care for those patients. According to a new report titled "World Market for Diagnostic Cardiology Devices and Remote Cardiac Monitoring Services -- 2013" from IHS inMedica, the cost of remote cardiac monitoring is expected to rise to $867 million just in the United States.
If the simple application of well-known technology can reduce costs and save lives, it is imperative that CIOs begin paying attention to the success of such programs. While struggling with meaningful use or EHR, here's a technology you can implement easily and cheaply that can help reduce the pressure on your more complicated projects. If that's not enough, saving lives should be a good incentive.