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Hartford HealthCare Launches Virtual Care Management Program for Patients Living With COPD

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   June 23, 2022

The Connecticut-based health system is partnering with Wellinks on a program that will equip patients transitioning from the hospital back home with digital health tools, an mHealth app and virtual connections to their care team for rehabilitation and coaching.

Hartford HealthCare is launching a new program that will use digital health tools and virtual care to help patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who are transitioning from the hospital back to their homes.

The Connecticut-based, seven-hospital, 400-site health system is partnering with digital health company Wellinks on the program, which will give qualifying patients access to care management services at home for as much as 16 weeks. And it targets a population that has frequent interactions with care providers.

“Although COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease in the United States, estimated to cost $49 billion in care annually, innovation in COPD care has trailed other disease states," Syed Hadi, MD, a hospitalist at Hartford Healthcare, said in a press release. "Acute exacerbations of COPD often result in hospitalization, and a quarter of patients will be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.”

The health system is one of many across the country using telehealth and digital health to expand and improve chronic care management for patients with a variety of health concerns, including diabetes, COPD, chronic heart disease, asthma, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Program range from simple, daily check-ins with a care team to report vital signs and symptoms, to more elaborate remote patient monitoring services that might include continuous monitoring and even in-person care.

The program aims to improve care management and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations by giving patients an mHealth app and connected devices when they leave the hospital, to allow them and their care team to monitor vital signs, track health data and stay in touch at home. Those patients will also have access to virtual rehabilitation and personalized health coaching.

“COPD is a complex medical condition that requires a multidisciplinary team approach," Abi Sundaramoorthy, MD, MBA, Wellinks' chief medical officer, said in the release. "When patients are recovering from hospitalization, care gaps are difficult to close and can have a negative impact on outcomes."

The program, which will track hospital readmissions as well as clinical outcomes and compare that data to a control group of patients receiving traditional, in-person COPD care management, was facilitated through Hartford HealthCare Innovation, the health system's innovation arm.

The health system has worked with more than 20 digital health start-ups, including New Haven-based Wellinks, through its Center for Education, Simulation & Innovation. It is also partnering with the Israel Export Institute to bring Israeli-backed and -developed technology to the US, and has joined at least two accelerators aimed at improving the pipeline for new technology in healthcare.

“Our innovations really focus on four platforms,” Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeff Flaks said in a separate press release. “It’s about access, affordability, quality, and health equity. All of the innovation work we do goes across those four domains.”

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.

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