It is well known among healthcare systems that people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, cost the industry more than a trillion dollars each year. When you understand how some of these debilitating diseases affect people, it’s easy to see how these costs add up quickly.
Take a person with diabetes and other conditions. This person suffers from nerve pain and is taking a variety of medications to control the discomfort. The problem is that these pain relievers cause nausea. As a result, this patient makes frequent and expensive trips to the emergency department for relief.
In August 2019, OSF HealthCare launched OSF Virtual Advanced Care to manage the care of those most at risk of needing hospital or emergency care. The program offers chronic disease patients daily virtual care from a team of physicians. Participants use home monitoring equipment such as a blood pressure monitor, scale, and thermometer to report their vital signs and any other concerns.
In partnership with Healthcare Analytics, OSF Virtual Advanced Care is using data models to identify those most in need of this type of care. They also track the impact of the program on both patients and the organization. The goal of these tools is to ensure that the virtual advanced care program helps reduce the costs of care while improving quality of life and patient outcomes.
Data analysis models
How are people selected for the OSF Virtual Advanced Care program? HealthCare Analytics created a predictive model that identifies people in a certain population who are most at risk for high expenses, including repeat visits to the emergency room or hospital admissions. Then a primary care provider contacts these people to explain the program, assess their interest, and enroll those who want help.
“We are trying to reach those people who are hurting, but are not yet the sickest of the sick,” said Suzanne Hinderliter, Director of Digital Acute Care for OSF OnCall Digital Health. “They, in many cases, have multiple chronic conditions that can land them in the hospital. The OSF Virtual Advanced Care program is a way to manage their problems at home, help them make decisions and keep them in a stable state of well-being. “
In any given month, there are about 160 patients in the program. Healthcare Analytics developed a data analysis dashboard that provides demographic information, different chronic conditions a patient may have, and patient expenses. It also compares the results of this group of people with those who have similar illnesses but are not in the OSF Virtual Advanced Care program.
“This allows us to do a statistical effectiveness analysis of the program to determine its impact on patients,” said Bryan Kaiser, director of analysis and reporting for Healthcare Analytics. “This panel is helping us show if we are keeping these people as healthy as possible and reducing costs of care.”
What is the impact for the chronically ill?
While Healthcare Analytics is still in the process of gathering the information it needs to show financial impact, the program is an anecdotal success.
“We were able to enroll a diabetic patient who visited the emergency room frequently for a number of reasons,” said Beth Wharton, operations manager for OSF Virtual Advanced Care. “To date, this person’s diabetes is very well controlled and they have had minimal ED visits compared to what they did when they first entered the program.”
Wharton says that using data analysis models in conjunction with OSF Virtual Advanced Care gives his team a quick look at what is happening with his patients’ disease management. That allows them to easily identify problems before they become big problems for the people OSF HealthCare serves. This not only benefits some of the sickest patients, it also benefits the organization as a whole.