Remote monitoring of patients cuts healthcare costs

Since September 2014, Wellington County has been the subject of an experiment to help reduce the number of 911 calls and emergency room visits by remotely monitoring patients with complex medical conditions in their homes. Queen’s University will be doing a cost benefit analysis on the program, which currently shows a 300% return on investment. There are currently 9,000 patients in the program across the province, with plans to add 3,500 more by the end of the year.

There are less than 500 patients in Wellington County.

“Here we have a fully paid program which is available for Erin residents and that is not used as extensively as it could be because of lack of awareness,” said Pierre Brianceau (pictured), County Councillor for Erin. “This program is already funded and could help people live longer and better lives.”

Remote patient monitoring is available for people with congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who have made 911 calls three times in the last 12 months, had two emergency room visits in the last 12 months or one hospital admission in the past year.

Patients enrolled in the program are provided with home medical devices to monitor weight, blood pressure, oxygen levels and blood sugar levels for diabetic patients. All of these devices are Bluetooth enabled and offer real-time data to the community paramedics who watch over their cases.

Abnormal dips in values alert the paramedics, who then offer their advice to either see their primary care giver or to call 911, thus cutting down on unnecessary 911 calls.

Brianceau is an advocate of the program. “One of my stated goals when elected was to support youth and seniors in order for them to be able to stay in town,” he said. “This is a way to save 911 calls and prevent people from having to go and wait in emergency rooms if they don’t need to – it’s a win for everybody. We’ve seen a reduction in emergency room visits by 58 per cent.”

In its two years of existence, the program has helped reduce 911 calls for these types of patients by 50 percent in Ontario and is projected to save an average of $1,568 per patient annually; closer to $9,000 in rural area like Chatham.

The project was funded by seven Community Futures Development Corporations who put a total of $500,000 toward it, while Canada Health Infoway added $1.6 million.

“Here is a way to bring these services to East Wellington,” said Brianceau.

“I know it works. The remote system is better, we just need more people to understand that it’s there for them.”

Remote Patient Monitoring is an initiative of Community Paramedics across Ontario, helping to keep patients with chronic illnesses such as COPD and CHF safe at home and out of the hospital.

The innovative program is designed to improve the quality of life for individuals and improve communication among healthcare providers to deliver the highest quality of coordinated care.