University of Missouri researchers working at an independent living community have determined that onsite care coordination and sensor technology can lead to lower medical costs.
While all community residents receive care coordination from an onsite team consisting of a registered nurse and a licensed clinical social worker, some of the residents also have sensors in their apartments that monitor walking patterns for increasing fall risk, respiration rate, restlessness and pulse, and detect falls. The health information is relayed to the care coordinators who then address any health changes. Said Marilyn Rantz, Curators Professor Emerita in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing:
Comparing the cost of living at [a facility] with the sensor technology versus living in a nursing home reveals potential savings of about $30,000 per person. Potential cost savings to Medicaid-funded nursing homes, assuming the technology and care coordination are reimbursed, are estimated to be about $87,000 per person.
Part of this cost-savings is due to early detection. Previous research by Rantz and her colleagues found health problems are detected seven to 14 days earlier in people who have the sensors. Rantz adds:
The sensors also enhance decision-making for the care coordinators; [they] help the nurse or the social worker focus on alerts to potential health problems. The alerts can also indicate potential depression, increasing confusion and/or other problems the person may be experiencing. With the sensors, the nurses get a head’s up several days or weeks before the health condition becomes serious – before people will even detect it themselves.
This study confirms that business case for care coordination and its ability to deliver tangible results. Further, it highlights the enabling role of data and technology when used as a complement to the skills of trained healthcare pros. Increasingly, this combination of high-tech and high-touch is the hallmark of the most effective care coordination programs.