eHealth Pilot Helps Chronically Ill

Posted on May 28, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

An 18-month pilot in one of Rio de Janeiro has demonstrated that even a small amount of health IT tools, applied to the right population, can have a significant effect on targeted patients’ health.

To conduct the pilot, the New Cities Foundation and GE Healthcare set out to test out a model which would improve access to primary care in a poor urban community, reports PMLive. (Note: The New Cities Foundation was established by GE, Cisco and Ericsson.)

The partners gave a clinic in the Santa Marta favela in Rio a GE-created eHealth kit, capable of fitting in a backpack, which contained a set of tools to measure key health indicators.  The materials in the kit, if purchased by outside parties, would usually cost about $42,000.

Clinic staff used the portable set of tools to visit 100 elderly patients living with chronic illness and mobility issues, in an effort to offer these patients a comprehensive diagnosis, the publication said.

According to a report created on the project by the Foundation, the results were substantial. Cost savings due to avoiding adverse clinical events included $4,000 (heart failure) to $200,000 (kidney failure) per 100 elderly patients.  Meanwhile, the pilot saved $136,000 per 1,000 patients by avoiding hospitalizations of those with cardiovascular diseases.

Time and time again, research shows that proactively providing preventive care takes costs out of the health system. This model, which seems like it could be duplicated easily in the U.S., should be tested widely in urban “health deserts” here. Any approach which brings primary care to where the frail, immobile elderly are seems almost guaranteed to be a winner.