Superior patient care. Preferred provider agreements with hospital systems. Investing in innovative technologies. This is the three-pronged strategy that has catapulted Healthcare Resource Solutions from startup to a dominant player in Cook and ten other counties surrounding Chicago in only 11 years. We spoke with co-founder Glenn Steigbigel this week about the third prong, HRS's latest innovation deployment, a technology called Wanda™.
A veteran of IBM's "Global Services Strategy and Change" division with an advanced degree in Public Policy and Economics, Steigbigel is anything but a clinician. He knew that strategic hiring and technology deployment would be keys to competing in the overcrowded healthcare at home Chicago-area market.
"We set up our agency to take care of the patients that need the most help," he told us. "That willingness to deal with so-called 'frequent flyers' helped us achieve preferred provider status with Northwestern and Loyola University hospital systems and others."
He added that technology became a focus when he and business partner Robert Mikulak, an MBA but also not a clinician, saw a future with too few nurses for the growing senior population. Today their 11-year old agency is CHAP accredited and one of the largest privately-owned Medicare agencies in Chicago, serving eleven counties from one central office in the city's western suburbs.
"We had been doing remote patient monitoring for several years," Steigbigel continued, "interpreting and making use of the incoming vital sign data as best we could. Wanda adds an important additional layer. It adds the patient's living conditions, demographics, and health and medication history to the mix and performs predictive analytics using all that data. It shows us not only what is happening but what is likely to happen next. Now we know not only whether the patient is at risk but why. With that knowledge, we can fine tune our own clinical pathways, tweak our visits and treatment plans, and see the results of front-loading visits. All of this contributes to reducing hospital readmissions."
Developed after twelve years of research in conjunction with the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, Silicon Valley startup Wanda only recently released its patient monitoring analytics tool of the same name. It includes vital sign measurement devices but they are one small part of a data analytics system that the company says can identify high-risk patients before an adverse event occurs.
According to Chief Collaboration Officer Mark Heinemeyer, Wanda is not a device company but does incorporate vital sign measurements in making its predictions. "Wanda is able to reliably predict an adverse event seven days in advance," he told us. "Investors were attracted to us when they saw our studies with diabetics. We required 60 percent fewer activities from hospital systems but gave them 70 percent more information. With that, we were able to help health systems confronted with readmission penalties."
He cited one early test with an East Coast hospital system that resulted in 30-day readmission rates dropping to 6 percent. "We can't claim full credit for that rate," Heinemeyer added. "We were the catalyst but of course we relied heavily on care managers and home health agencies to respond to our alerts and take meaningful action in response." (See study details elsewhere in this week's issue.)
HRS set to expand Wanda's reach
The two Chicago-area agency co-owners are already satisfied enough with early results to make plans to expand from their initial 30 monitors in order to reach more patients. Data analysts are looking at length-of-stay, number of visits, readmissions, patient outcomes, and patient improvements. "From those analyses," Steigbigel asserted, "we will know if our treatment plans are helping to reduce hospital readmissions."
He admitted that no one really knows exactly what practices result in the best care. But by analyzing the data he expects to be able to see the results of front-loading visits and exactly what flavor of front-loading is best for each patient. "Does this patient need three or four consecutive RN visits? Three or four consecutive therapy visits? Or three or four consecutive phone calls? By looking at more than just vital signs, we should be able to know these things."
He concluded our conversation with an explanation of his and his partner Mikulak's choice to include patient quality of life in his ROI calculation for this technology. "Wanda gives feedback not only to us but to the patient," he said, "which helps them to be motivated to become more compliant. After two years, we will know the total impact of Wanda on our costs but, until then, we are drawing no quick conclusions. The failure of most home telehealth studies is that the study time is so short they cannot learn the real story, they cannot register the impact of adjusting care plans to the incoming data."
©2016 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com