Along with healthcare expenses across the board, the cost of caring for vulnerable patient populations like Medicaid participants has gone up dramatically – along with higher rates of chronic conditions. In fact, Medicaid beneficiaries have higher rates of chronic diseases than the general population, according to a review published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The study’s authors framed the findings as ones that could help redesign Medicaid care management in the future: “As the Medicaid population continues to change, it is increasingly important to understand the major health burdens this population faces to better inform future program design to contain or reduce costs.”
And the health tech industry has responded. The strain on the Medicaid system has been the catalyst for businesses to step in with solutions: leverage existing technology to reduce cost expenditure while improving patient care and outcomes.
HealtheMed is one such organization, and their successful use of a comprehensive remote patient monitoring (RPM) program within a Medicaid patient population is the subject of a new episode in the Vital Insights podcast series.
Operating out of Minnesota, HealtheMed is has been working to improve the lives of Medicaid participants living isolated at home in the community, by providing telemedicine services to its Special Needs and Waiver participants – a population that represents the highest cost patients (using up to 25% of the state’s Medicaid budget).
Special Needs and Waiver participants also have unique challenges: they typically have multiple chronic conditions, many with correlating mental health issues, and are home-bound. They also take multiple medications every day and sometimes have a strong resistance to technology, touch or interaction.
This creates overall health management challenges – especially when you factor in the need to manage daily collaboration between the healthcare provider and the patient to maintain compliance, and a proactive approach to healthcare and critical health decisions.
To address those issues, HealtheMed designed its [email protected] telemedicine program, which consists of a packaged solution for each participant, to keep them connected to their care providers on a daily basis: a Smart Television, two-way camera, two-way microphone, medication dispensing device, vitals data capturing devices (including an EarlySense sensor for overnight data collection), and proprietary telemedicine software.
The HealtheMed combination of devices and tools, along with the back-end software that allows healthcare providers to flag patient health exacerbations, gives the clinical staff at HealtheMed the capability to triage patients needing further evaluation from a care provider.
And the program’s ongoing use is easy for patients to participate in: they turn on the Smart Television, which gives them a task list and vitals sign read-out for the day, as well as reminders for medication management. Overnight data from the EarlySense sensor populates the screen, showing them their vitals from the night before, and giving them and their care provider additional insights into their current health state.
“We’ve had patients who have identified gaps in their own care using this system and patients who have proactively reached out to their providers after assessing their overnight vital sign information – before we even have the chance to contact them,” said Shannon Holley-Smith, BSN, RN, is Nurse Director at HealtheMed. “And when you have patient engagement levels like that, you see results – in their satisfaction rates, in their outcomes – and we see the costs of care start to come down.”
And those results speak for themselves: The insight into continuous vitals data paired with the ability to assess it, helps HealtheMed address both the psychological and physiological needs of its patients, and guides the clinical workflow and medication management. It also improves the ongoing health status of the client by allowing the HealtheMed team to intervene immediately if they see red-flag issues in patient health data.
“We think we can reduce – and maybe even eliminate – unnecessary trips to the ER that happen when a patient’s condition exacerbates, and we don’t know about it,” said Ron Mandelbaum, CRO at HealtheMed. “Because nine times out of ten, when a patient has chronic conditions like ours do, they are admitted to the hospital after that kind of deterioration, when we could have intervened earlier and helped them stabilize at home. That represents a huge cost we can save the system.”
HealtheMed hopes to use their program’s success to help other state Medicaid programs develop more cost-effective programs. Tune in to their podcast to find out how or read more about our partnership here.