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February 14, 2011

Home Is Where the Heart Monitor Is

While reimbursement remains a sticking point, hospitals say devices that help keep patients at home are worth the cost.  As the health system puts more emphasis on keeping patients out of the hospital, providers are turning to an unlikely ally: the TV.

Leading IT hospitals are finding that the boob tube, along with more high-tech devices, are powerful tools in battling disease, especially chronic conditions.

A recent survey found that 62 percent of Americans believe communication with their doctors using home medical devices would improve their health.  However, just 35 percent of those age 65 and older were interested in home medical devices, even though 90 percent of them live with a chronic medical condition.  Providers hope older patients unfamiliar with computers may be more comfortable with emerging technologies that include interactive health monitoring applications that run on Internet-enabled TVs.

Home monitoring was implemented there to help reduce hospitalizations and improve quality of care.  Typically, readmission rates can be lowered for CHF patients, among others, with monitoring systems that prompt patients to take medication and also take vital signs on home devices that send information wirelessly to caregivers.

Reimbursement is still an issue as monitors can cost up to $8,000.  Most insurance companies do not reimburse for telemonitoring charges, although Medicare allows for telemonitoring as part of its episodic payment for skilled home care services for CHF patients.

Denice Higman, president of Soyring Consulting, advises hospitals to partner with insurers on home monitoring.  "Approach top payers with programs you offer related to preventive health and see if there are opportunities to decrease their costs and increase your patient volume.  Consider developing strategic programs to help support insurance company initiatives."

For more information, read the full article from Hospital & Health Networks.

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