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By Stephanie Musal • June 16, 2016

Using Telemedicine to Reduce Readmissions and Improve Patient Outcomes

In a little more than a century, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in overall life expectancy. While most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, citizens of most industrialized nations can now expect to live to 80 and beyond. Innovations in medicine have turned previously fatal diagnoses into manageable chronic conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 70% of Medicare recipients have at least two chronic conditions — such as congestive heart failure (CHF), diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or obesity — that require patient engagement and clinician involvement.

Yet routine in-office visits with a physician are often few and far between, especially in rural areas where time and distance make personal visits prohibitive. Telemedicine can bridge this gap, improving communication and providing a continuum of care that connects patients and clinicians. Connected patients are more engaged, more effectively managing their care and reducing readmissions to achieve better patient outcomes.

The Promise of Technology

As technology evolves, the promise of telemedicine grows. Just a few short years ago, telemedicine meant a standalone household device that “phoned home” from the household’s land line to connect with a monitoring service. Today, most of us carry that monitoring device in our pockets; There are nearly 2 billion smartphone users worldwide, a number that is expected to jump to 2.5 billion by 2018.

By capitalizing on the always-connected nature of modern life, providers can improve connectedness to patients, improve patients’ knowledge of their conditions, and intervene before small health issues become big problems.

While only a third of patients are ready to adopt video appointments, according to a 2015 Mayo Clinic survey, many want basic communication tools such as secure emails, text message reminders and other communications to improve health. In a world where the healthcare industry is perceived as lagging technologically, patients perceive the experience to be state of the art, a sign that their clinician is knowledgeable, engaged and informed.

Reducing Readmissions

Telemedicine has already been proven to reduce readmissions and improve patient outcomes. In a study of 179 general practices in England, published in The BMJ(formerly the British Medical Journal) in 2012, Steventon et al measured the proportion of patients admitted to the hospital during a 12-month period and found that telemedicine services were associated with lower rates of hospital readmission and mortality.

Similarly, Vontetsianos et al examined COPD patients who had been admitted to the hospital at least four times in a two-year period. The results, published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare in 2005, demonstrated that in a nine-month period, the group saw an overall decrease in hospitalizations and emergency department visits all while improving the patients’ knowledge and self-management of their disease.

What’s more, telemedicine is reducing the cost of healthcare. A study by Lin et al, published in SAGE Open Medicine in 2016, showed that a telemedicine program improved access and quality of care while avoiding more than $580,000 in cost burdenfor the Navy Medicine East Region.

Building a HIPAA-Compliant Platform for Telemedicine

As with conventional medicine, telemedicine platforms are subject to the same HIPAA requirements regarding confidentiality and patient privacy. This means that any telemedicine platforms must be secure and compliant from the mobile device to the data center.

With the CloudMine Connected Health Cloud, you have ready-made, reliable developer tools and secure architecture for building telemedicine apps. The Connected Health Cloud keeps private messages and patients’ protected health data private and HIPAA compliant.

Best of all: CloudMine's Connected Health Cloud connects all your data to enable you to perform analytics and measure outcomes. You draw conclusions from your aggregated patient data, making the information work for you. Learn more about kickstarting your telemedicine program here