Healthcare Technology Featured Article

August 13, 2012

CMS Adds Three More Healthcare Organizations to its Pilot Telemedicine Program

Telemedicine is becoming so popular, even the government’s doing it. Originally conceived as a way to monitor astronauts’ health in space, it’s now moved decidedly earthward and is bringing many benefits and rewards through caring for patients away from the hospital.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has announced the addition of  three groups of medical practices to its eight-month-old Medicare pilot program, which is testing methods for reducing unnecessary beneficiary hospitalizations through caring for the elderly and chronically ill at home, Rich Daly reported.

According to a story at MedHealthWorld, telemedicine has already saved Texas prisons, when combined with electronic health records, $1 billion over 10 years.

One of the greatest challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system is providing quality care to rural areas that do not have access to specialty physicians because of distance or socioeconomic conditions, according to a white paper by the University of Texas Medical Branch.

“The use of technology to deliver healthcare from a distance, or telemedicine, has been demonstrated as an effective way of overcoming certain barriers to care, particularly for communities located in rural and remote areas,” the source stated.

The idea is to monitor chronically ill patients remotely, and intervene as necessary, rather than readmit them to the hospital to watch over them.

 The CMS admitted Virginia Commonwealth University Health System/Medical College of Virginia Hospitals and Physicians in Richmond, Va.; Innovative Primary Senior Care in Skokie, Ill., and Treasure Coast Healthcare in Stuart, Fla., bringing the total number of medical organizations involved in the program to 19.

The pilot’s main goal is to test whether primary-care services delivered in the home by multidisciplinary teams can improve care and reduce costs for beneficiaries with chronic conditions and prevent the need for institutional care.

It’s done through monitors that track patients’ vital signs remotely while they are at home – something that, in the past, could only be done as an inpatient. The monitors provide 24-hour tracking, as well as availability by providers who also use electronic health information systems, remote monitoring and mobile diagnostic technology, according to Daly.

“The program will track the outcomes of the various pilot participants through specific care-quality measures and determine whether they meet predetermined savings targets,” he wrote.CMS officials said it eventually could include as many as 50 medical practices.

Edited by Braden Becker

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