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Emory Healthcare Saves $4.6M with Tele-ICU Program

April 6, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Atlanta’s Emory Healthcare saved Medicare $4.6 million during a 15-month span by deploying a telehealth program in its ICU.

According to a news announcement from Emory, which provides care to more than 20,000 patients in five hospitals across Georgia, implemented an eICU program to remotely monitor ICU patients on a continuous basis helped care teams to recognize patients in need of immediate attention so they could intervene more quickly. Philips, a global health technology company, helped Emory to exceed their goals for streamlining the system's ICUs via use of population health solutions.

During an independent audit that spanned 15 months, conducted on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the eICU program at Emory was compared to nine other hospitals in the Atlanta area to determine the success of the implementation. The review criteria were established by the federal government and the auditor, which reported that Emory achieved the following results across its 136 beds at five hospital sites:

  • A reduction of $1,486 in average Medicare spending per 60-day episode relative to the comparison group, yielding an estimated savings of $4.6 million around care of these federal beneficiaries during the 15 month comparison period.
  • A 4.9 percentage point increase in the relative rate of discharges to home healthcare, while discharges to skilled nursing facilities and long-term care hospitals declined by 6.9 percentage points indicating that Emory was discharging patients with less need for institutional post-acute care after their eICU stay.
  •  A 2.1 percentage point decrease in the rate of 60-day inpatient readmissions relative to the comparison group. Medicare pays for home healthcare in 60-day increments, and more of Emory's patients were discharged with home healthcare, which may have contributed to this reduction in 60-day readmissions.

Officials say that the findings at Emory confirm direct and favorable effects on patient outcomes and costs of care. This has special significance for accountable care organizations (ACOs) that are taking on more financial risk and must pay for similarly high-cost patients while adhering to high quality standards. Using the Philips technology, Emory's remote monitoring team was credited with providing timely interventions to the bedside team and ensuring patients received care for issues that may have otherwise gone undetected.  The result was that patients received more complete care in the hospital, allowing them to recover in the home setting more often.

Additionally, the survey portion of the audit showed that patient satisfaction of those who received care at Emory's facilities was more favorable than reported by the comparison group. The findings also suggest that the eICU program at Emory helped improve affiliate provider training and increased the number of patients that one intensivist could cover.

"Our mission at Emory is to deliver quality care to patients at a cost they and their families can afford and to provide access whenever and wherever people need it," Timothy Buchman, Ph.D., M.D., director, critical care center, Emory Healthcare, said in a statement. "These independent findings verify that our innovative approach to addressing a highly variable, complex patient population—those in the critical care unit – improves patient outcomes, allowing them to leave the ICU healthier, thereby reducing the need for patients and their families to have extended rehab stays or be readmitted."

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