A $320,538 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture is helping Baxter Regional Medical Center reduce its readmission rate while implementing a Complex Care Management, allowing staff members to better manage patients' care.
The Baxter Bulletin reports that the grant was primarily developed around the telehealth, a remote patient monitoring device that will be placed into patients' home.
The telehealth device will benefit patients who are high-risk to return to the hospital, such as the ones who've suffered from pneumonia, a heart attack, congestive heart failure and others. Patients will be taught how to use the kit, such as checking their blood pressure and temperature.
Everything is done through Bluetooth, Dan Snyder, community paramedic coordinator, said. The information will be sent to a portal where someone will monitor the patients' health 24/7.
It will allow the hospital to track the patient closer if there's something going on, Snyder explained.
Some of the red flags that can potentially catch Snyder's attention will be a patient gaining three to five pounds within a short period of time.
Gerald Cantrell, paramedic director for BRMC, stressed the telehealth won't substitute a face-to-face visit.
"We won't put this in the patient's home and won't go see them," Cantrell said.
The hospital wants to expand its community paramedic program while reducing the readmission rate because readmission generates monetary penalties. About 70 percent of BRMC's patients are retirees who are on Medicare.
"Through that, a lot of these patients are admitted to the hospital and discharged," Cantrell said.
According to one of Medicare's rules, which started in 2013, the hospital is responsible for any patients discharged who come back to the hospital within a 30-day period. BRMC was subject to a 1-percent penalty of patients' discharges.
For example, Cantrell said the national benchmark for congestive heart failure would be 19 percent, and if the hospital's readmission rate for the same patients' was 21 percent, then the hospital would be above that national number. As a consequence, BRMC would need to seek for alternatives to fix that or else it would receive monetary penalties.
"If we weren't improving the hospital readmission rate, our penalty could've been over a million dollars," Cantrell said. "It's not, but it could've been a million dollars."
The telehealth won't be given to a patient permanently. Patients would receive the kit on a case by case basis and the unit can be reassigned.
This is a 3-year grant, which officials intend to accomplish several projects with. Telehealth is the first phase. Hospital officials hope to purchase a total of 40 telehealth.
Another phase of the grant is a 24-hour nurse helpline. Cantrell said there are several concerned people calling BRMC who may have a sick child. Some of the questions they might ask can be about the resources available or the services available.
For instance, if a mother calls the emergency room and is worried about her daughter who has a sore throat and is running a fever, the nurse in that call center would be able to type in a sore throat and running a fever. As the nurse puts that information in the computer, it will populate a screen of guidelines that the nurse would follow to give some clear instructions.
The mother will be offered recommendations, and then decide what she can do with the child.
The grant opened in spring of this year. In March, the hospital realized it was interested in applying. With a total of 87 pages, it took about 90 days to compile information for the grant. July 15 was the deadline.
Cantrell said this was a nationwide grant, and he knew other organizations were going to apply. So he was "really surprised" when he received news that the hospital was rewarded with the grant. BRMC was evaluated on a point-scoring system based on information like the demographic and school system.