News Feature | December 26, 2013

Give Patients Tablets, Reduce Readmissions

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

One ACO has taken a different approach to care and provided patients with 4G tablets to manage their health

Usually, when tablets like the iPad are in the news in healthcare it’s because providers are using them for EHRs or mobility in the hospital. One ACO, however, is outfitting patients in an effort to improve care.

Hackensack (N.J.) Physician Hospital Alliance ACO “has taken care coordination to the next, high-tech level by giving patients their own 4G tablets to help manage their care,” according to Becker’s Hospital Review. “The ACO gives 4G tablets to patients with chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and/or diabetes, since those are the three leading causes of readmissions in the HackensackAlliance ACO, according to Noreen Hartnett, BSN, RN, patient care navigator with HackensackAlliance ACO. ‘Those are disease processes that are changing for the patient day-to-day, so they need to manage their symptoms at home as well as have physicians managing in the office,’ Hartnett says.”

Nurses care navigators tell patients when to take medication, eat or measure their blood sugar via the tablets. If patients don’t check in, nurses are notified so they can contact the patient and fix the problem. "It's almost like having an electronic nurse with the patient at all times in order to maximize compliance with various recommended treatments," Morey Menacker, DO, president and CEO of Hackensack Alliance ACO says.

Patients who have dexterity and are alert qualify for a tablet and 16 patients are currently equipped with one at the cost of $150 a month, per patient, after the initial investment in tablets. This is a small price compared to readmission penalties which can cost thousands per incident.

“The tablet program is proving to help reduce readmissions in the HackensackAlliance ACO. In a pilot study of the program, a group of Medicare patients who used the tablets had a readmission rate of just 8 percent, while a control group had a 28 percent readmission rate.

“More anecdotally, Dr. Menacker brought up a patient who was hospitalized every two months for his chronic heart failure in 2012 — but hasn't been hospitalized once in 2013 after being put on the tablet program. ‘It's a dramatic change to a patient's quality of life,’ says Menacker. ‘You can't put a cost on that. The cost is miniscule compared to the benefit.’”

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