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9/27/2012
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Patient Engagement Tools Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Emmi Solutions platform helped New Jersey medical center reduce readmission rates through interactive voice response calls, feedback reports, and patient education.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' quest to reduce readmission rates has opened the door to a crowded patient engagement vendor space. Emmi Solutions is looking to cut through the noise with the launch of EmmiTransition, a platform aimed at guiding patients as they move from care setting to care setting.

The system provides patients with actionable information to address common causes for setbacks. EmmiTransition employs a combination of interactive voice response calls, online educational programs, and tools to report feedback to hospital care providers.

Hackensack University Medical Center, one of four hospitals piloting EmmiTransition, is using the technology to help about 100 congestive heart failure patients. Patients receive 45 days of consistent communication, and according to Louis Teichholz, MD, director of cardiac services at Hackensack UMC, they have responded well to the program.

The medical center had used Emmi Solutions products in the past but wasn't actively looking to implement a patient engagement program until it was approached by Emmi Solutions, said Teichholz in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare . "The concept of making phone calls isn't a new one, but we had been making telephone calls and appointments with physicians before this program, so it was a natural extension."

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The medical center uses the system to interact with patients through automated phone calls. Patients supply information back to the organization regarding weight problems, if they've been seen by a physician, how they're generally feeling, and so on. Teichholz and his team then receive these responses via emails, and if there are issues, emails are deemed "red flags." "We can pick up if there's a problem, and then we make a telephone call," he said.

Through the pilot program, HackensackUMC played an active role in helping Emmi Solutions develop protocols and maintain dialogue, said Teichholz. "Although the numbers are small and this wasn't a scientific project, there's been a marked reduction in readmission rates for all causes for those patients enrolled in the program."

Teichholz said the program's readmission rate has gone from "20% in general" to under about 5 or 6%. "We think this has been helpful, and it's allowed us to do it with our resources--those are always limited. This helped us improve interactions with patients. One of the things with readmission is patient understanding, interaction, and education. We think this helped."

In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Devin Gross, CEO at Emmi Solutions, said he and his team improved reporting capabilities throughout the pilot, "to make it easier for people to use data in actionable ways." Emmi Solutions also worked with Hackensack UMC to "understand workflow and make sure it was most effective."

"Overall, we're very pleased with the results," said Gross. "After the pilot, we're not changing the patient messages; we're making them crisper and tighter, but we felt we hit the mark of how we were talking to people."

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

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