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Telehealth study leads to improved outcomes, reduced costs

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Touted as the largest study of critical care telehealth, new research shows the potential for this form of health information technology to improve patient care and lower healthcare costs, according to findings published in the CHEST Journal.

As part of the Intensive Care Unit (eICU) Program, a team of researchers led by Craig M. Lilly, MD, Professor of Medicine, Anesthesiology and Surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the program’s Director at UMass Memorial Medical Center observed the care of approximately 120,000 critical care patients in 56 ICUs within 32 hospitals and 19 health systems over a five-year period. All participating health systems were adopters of telehealth technology developed by Philips.

“This is the first large-scale study that ties ICU telehealth to both the improvement of patient outcomes and cost reduction through shorter length of stays in the ICU and hospital and identifies the processes that achieved greater efficiency,” Lilly said in a public statement on Thursday. “These results point to a significant opportunity to better manage and treat our critical patients in this time of increasing pressure from healthcare reform to deliver high quality and cost-effective care.”

Here’s what the study discovered about patients receiving care through a healthcare organization with an eICU program:

• Patient survival rates increased by 26 percent

• Patients were 16 percent more likely to survive hospitalization and be discharged;

• Time spent on ICU discharges was decreased by 20 percent

• Time spent on hospital discharges was decreased by 15 percent

On average, hospital length of stay was reduced by 0.5, 1.0, and 3.6 days while ICU length of stay decreased by 1.1, 2.5, and 4.5 days for patients staying in the ICU for more than 7, 14, and 30 days, respectively.

“Today, personnel accounts for 56 percent of the $2.8 trillion healthcare spend in the US, and coupled with the current shortage of clinicians, many hospitals are unable to offer on-site intensivist physicians, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explained Brian Rosenfeld, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Philips HealthcareTelehealth. “This study provides further evidence that health systems employing coordinated telehealth in their care models will increase provider productivity, while improving outcomes and reducing costs.”

According to the announcement, those hospitals and health systems with the largest reduction in length of stay and mortality rates had certain program design element in common:

• Having an intensivist physician perform a remote review of the patient and care plan within one hour of ICU admission;

• Frequent collaborative review and use of performance data provided by the ICU telemedicine program;

• Faster response times to technology-based alerts and alarms for physiological and laboratory value instability;

• Increased rates of adherence to ICU best practices for those that are supported by the ICU telemedicine team;

• Interdisciplinary rounds;

• Institutional ICU committee effectiveness.

Read the abstract here.

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