CMS tests home health monitoring

PDA-like Health Buddy will monitor patients with chronic illnesses, potentially cutting health care costs by five percent.

CMS Care Management for High Cost Beneficiciaries Project

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has tapped a consortium led by Health Hero Network Inc. for a three-year project to demonstrate how home health technology can help monitor and manage patients with chronic illnesses, such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive disease and diabetes.

CMS said the Care Management for High Cost Beneficiaries (CMHCB) demonstration will test the ability of direct-care providers to coordinate care for high-cost/high-risk beneficiaries by providing them with clinical support outside traditional settings to manage their conditions. Potentially, such an arrangement could improve their quality of life and reduce costs by cutting visits to doctors and hospitals.

“This demonstration project will focus on Medicare beneficiaries who have the most to gain from our health care system but who too often don’t get the best possible prevention-oriented care,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, CMS administrator.

Steve Brown, chief executive officer of Health Hero Network, said the consortium will install the company’s Health Buddy network in the homes of up top 2,000 patients of medical groups in Bend, Ore., and Wenatchee, Wash.

The Health Buddy, Brown said, runs on the same kind of Samsung Corp. processor used in personal digital assistants, and uses a dial-up modem to connect to Health Hero’s iCare Desktop, a secure, Web-based system used by nurses and doctors to monitor and manage patients.

Patients use simple push buttons on the Health Buddy to answer questions from clinicians that appear on the screen of the device, Brown said. He added patients can also plug electronic blood pressure cuffs and blood glucose meters into data ports on the Health Buddy. Clinicians can scan patients under their care on the iCare console, which red flags patients who need more coaching or intervention, Brown added.

Other participants in the Advancing Chronic Care through E*Health Networks and Technologies (ACCENT) consortium include Bend Memorial Clinic, Wenatchee Valley Medical Center and the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), which represents medical groups nationwide.

AMGA President Donald Fisher said the ACCENT project will demonstrate that doctors and patients with severe chronic illnesses, supported by information technology, can establish a new partnership to provide exceptional preventive care for patients in their homes, and keep them healthier and living independently longer while reducing costs.

The ACCENT consortium has guaranteed to CMS it will save at least five percent of the costs for treating patients enrolled in the demonstration. CMS said ACCENT will receive a monthly fee to cover administrative and care management costs, but the partnership will have to assume a financial risk if it does not meet performance standards to achieve Medicate savings.

Brown said he believes home health technologies can help CMS cut the nation’s $30 trillion health budget by providing alternative care management for the 15 percent of Medicaid patients who account for 80 percent of Medicare costs.

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