How Tablet Computers are Reducing Hospital Readmissions in New Jersey

| January 14, 2014

An accountable care organization in New Jersey is finding that it can save money on patient care by spending money on technology.

An accountable care organization (ACO) in New Jersey is finding that it can save money on patient care by spending money on technology.

The Hackensack Physician Hospital Alliance reduced hospital readmissions after it bought tablet computers for 16 of its Medicare patients with chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

The Medicare Shared Savings Program participant now reports an 8% readmission rate among patients who use the tablets. Compare that to a 28% readmission rate for control group members who don’t have access to tablets.

How the Program Works

Nurse care navigators helped patients set up their new tablets after they returned home from the hospital, according to FierceMobileHealthcare. The tablets now send alerts to each patient when it’s time to eat, take medications, measure blood sugar or weigh themselves. The patient uses the tablet to document these activities.

Care navigators get a notification if a patient does not document an activity after receiving an alert. The navigators then contact the patient and identify the problem. The tablet is also loaded with educational resources, including diet tips and information about medication side effects.

"It's almost like having an electronic nurse with the patient at all times in order to maximize compliance with various recommended treatments," says Dr. Morey Menacker, the ACO’s president and chief executive officer.

Calculating Cost Savings

The tablet program costs the ACO about $150 each month per patient, in addition to the initial investment in the tablets. By comparison, the average cost of a readmission is $13,200, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

The ACO says it is reaping other benefits from the tablet program. Reducing trips to the hospital has improved patients’ quality of life. The tablets have also empowered patients to become more confident in their health management.

“The cost is miniscule compared to the benefit,” says Menacker.