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New England home telehealth project receives $100,000 grant

The New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) received a $100,000 grant to fund a home telehealth demonstration project involving patients who have been hospitalized for congestive heart failure. The grant was one of five awarded by the Center for Technology and Aging as part of its remote patient monitoring diffusion grants program.

The diffusion grants program is designed to support projects that study the efficacy of using remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology for chronic disease management and post-acute care for older adults. The center believes that RPM technology could save the U.S. health care system nearly $200 billion dollars over the next 25 years if it’s used for patients with chronic diseases, which currently affect eight of 10 older Americans.

Though telemedicine is gaining in popularity, a number of barriers to adoption still exist, especially the issue of reimbursement for telehealth services. That’s one of the reasons why the center is funding these projects. “These projects will underscore the need to reform reimbursement policies and make possible wider adoption of these technologies in public programs — Medicare and Medicaid — as well as among private insurers and health care systems,” said David Lindeman, the center’s director.

NEHI is collaborating on the home telehealth project with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Atrius Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The organizations hope to “demonstrate clinical and financial benefits from the use of RPM technologies as evidenced by reducing hospital readmissions.”

Participants in the NEHI project will receive an Electronic House Call System equipped with a digital scale, an automatic blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter. The system will measure and transmit the participants’ health data to a secure Web portal over a telephone or broadband connection. A computer algorithm then will analyze the data. If it detects any activity that falls outside the ranges set by the patient’s care provider, it will send an alert, or “red flag,” to the case manager. Case managers will monitor the system daily, and call patients to confirm the reported data.

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