How to Build a Remote Patient Monitoring Program

Philip Betbeze, February 1, 2018

UPMC's five-year-old tablet-based program was initially only for patients with congestive heart failure, but is now in the process of expanding to as many as four other conditions, and is a valuable tool in preventing expensive and unnecessary hospitalizations.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Can a remote patient monitoring program prevent hospitalizations?

The answer, according to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) experts, is unequivocally yes.

That means big savings in a world of high-end healthcare that is increasingly becoming value-based. What UPMC did to build the remote monitoring program doesn't necessarily take huge budgets and massive staffing additions.

In fact, others can emulate the program largely with changes in patient discharge and follow-up.

At UPMC, an integrated healthcare delivery system that operates more than 30 hospitals, the program started as a pilot to see if patients with congestive heart failure would benefit from an early warning system to prevent hospitalizations.

Over time, it's expanded to a health system–wide remote patient monitoring system that is being rolled out beyond CHF patients. Executives and clinicians are excited about its potential to improve outcomes and cut costs and readmissions.

Medicare patients who enroll in the program are 76% less likely to be readmitted within 90 days than those who aren't. UPMC Health Plan members 65 and older who enroll are 74% less likely to be readmitted over the same time period.

"We were initially running it as a way to improve efficiency and utilize an early warning system to have nurses go out to patient homes," says Ravi Ramani, MD, director of UPMC's Integrated Heart Failure Program. "We had a fair amount of success, and as word spread, the health plan started to get interested as a way to decrease the cost of care."

Here are the steps that UPMC took to build its program.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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