Automated care gets a long-term look

West Health Institute, Vanderbilt target readmissions, chronic conditions with longitudinal study
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Automated care gets a long-term look

Seeking ways in which IT can enable more coordinated care outside traditional settings, the Gary and Mary West Health Institute is launching a five-year study to explore new technologies and new approaches to chronic disease management.

The initiative, which hopes to pave the way toward more automated patient care beyond hospitals and doctors' offices, was announced Dec. 12 by West Health Institute, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and West Corporation.

The research, which will begin in early 2014, aims to spot new ways technology can provide real-time feedback and guidance to patients and to alert care coordination teams of worsening health conditions, officials say.

[See also: Care coordination's day in the sun.]

Most of the hospitals and doctors' offices in America are not able to actively and consistently manage patients once they leave a medical setting, WHI officials point out. This can result in high hospital readmissions, unnecessary emergency room visits and uncontrolled chronic illness.

"So many patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension unnecessarily cycle through emergency rooms and hospital beds, which are the most expensive places to receive care," said Nicholas J. Valeriani, chief executive officer of WHI, in a press statement.

"Through this collaboration, we are seeking to create an automated system of care coordination so providers can intervene before medical problems escalate," he said. "This will benefit both patients and the healthcare system by avoiding medical interventions, costly admissions and readmissions."

Participating organizations in the project will translate medical treatment guidelines into automated clinical and operational workflows and study their effect on the cost of care, caregiver capacity and the quality of healthcare outcomes, officials say. This integrated system of care has the potential to enhance the relationship between doctors and patients as the patient can be followed more closely.

"Healthcare lags behind other service industries that use customer-friendly smart technologies," said Jeffrey R. Balser, vice chancellor for Health Affairs at VUMC, in a statement. "By leveraging the strengths of our three organizations, we hope to evaluate new ways to connect patients and clinicians to the right resources that meet the medical need in real-time.

[See also: Automated at-home monitoring lowers high blood pressure, study finds.]

Over the course of the collaboration, WHI will share its research on the automation of workflows and communications to extend and enhance the beneficial impact of care coordination models to a broader population. VUMC will make available the relevant portions of its existing IT infrastructure and content and its health services research expertise.

"Every segment in healthcare -- payers, health systems, physicians or pharmaceutical companies – recognizes that the healthcare process must be streamlined and expedited in a way that is patient-friendly, similar to the way consumers easily buy books online from Amazon," said Tom Barker, chief executive officer of West Corporation, in a statement. "Our objective is to facilitate communications around patients, care coordinators and healthcare providers by leveraging valuable content, personalization, speed, privacy and scalability."