Hsueh-Fen Chen, PhD, assistant professor, Health Management and Policy, for the School of Public Health at the UNT Health Science Center (UNTHSC), Fort Worth, Texas, is the lead author of a new research article, titled “Telehealth and Hospitalizations for Medicare Home Healthcare Patients,” published in the June 2011 issue of The American Journal of Managed Care.
Co-authors on this manuscript are José A. Pagán, PhD, chair of the UNTHSC Department of Health Management and Policy, and M. Christine Kalish, MBA, CMPE, the Brittain-Kalish Group.
Based on a study of 5,873 Medicare beneficiaries receiving home healthcare services through a network of community-based home health agencies operating in Texas and Louisiana, the study concluded that the 30-day hospitalization rate for home healthcare patients could be reduced from 17.1% to 10.3% through the use of an integrated, clinician-focused telehealth monitoring system. This may lead to substantial cost savings given that, for example, it costs approximately $7,200 to treat a readmitted Medicare patient.
The study notes that, “For both home health agencies and Medicare administrators, the problem of how to reduce hospitalization rates to improve quality of care for home healthcare patients continues to be a significant challenge,” with telehealth (the use of telecommunications and information technology to assess, diagnose, consult, monitor and provide information and interventions to patients across distance) being a promising and cost-effective solution to the issue.