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Going Low Tech Might Reduce Costly Hospital Admissions in Chronic Heart Failure

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 24, 2009

Any hospital dealing with significant numbers of congestive heart failure patients would want to reduce costly admissions with better management for people in their homes. And Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, a 237-bed facility in Northern Virginia, is no different.

That's why it promptly embraced an idea to monitor its CHF patients' daily weight and symptoms without having to see them in a healthcare setting. So it turned to a concept that uses surprisingly simple technology: a scale and a telephone, to learn the earliest signs of fluid buildup and treat those patients before their disease gets out of control.

The process, using Pharos Innovations' Tel-Assurance Remote Patient Monitoring Platform, takes only three minutes.

"We don't have firm metrics yet, but patient satisfaction is high, and initial results favorable in terms of decreased admission rates," and for those who were admitted, their lengths of stay and acuity were reduced, as well as their cost of care, says Harvey Sherber, a cardiologist and medical director of Inova's heart and vascular program.

The health system is so encouraged by the results, it is adopting the system in its four other Inova Health System hospitals: Inova Fairfax, Inova Alexandria, Inova Loudon, and Inova Fair Oaks, Sherber says.

The program began enrolling CHF patients last October. They were told to weigh themselves daily, and call in their weight to a special number. They would also report any symptom changes daily.

If they do report such symptoms, a case manager calls them back promptly to schedule a visit to see if a medication adjustment is necessary. And, the patients are reinforced on a daily basis to watch their sodium intake and make sure they are medication compliant.

"If there are any variances, their physician's practice is promptly notified," Sherber says.

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