Cable Giant Makes Major Play into Home Health

Cox Communications and Cleveland Clinic announced a strategic alliance Thursday to bring health care to the home through telehealth and other innovations.

The venture into home health by the third-largest U.S. cable TV company — with about 6 million customers — is a natural one, Todd Smith, director of media relations, tells HHCN.

“We’ve spent about $15 billion in the last decade to support broadband infrastructure,” he says. “Ten years ago, the capability of broadband to support this model wasn’t there. If you’re doing a two-way video consultation with a specialist from your home and they’re looking at a rash, the quality of the transmission is very important in that diagnosis.”

Now the time is right for Vivre Health, which is the name of Cox’s joint venture with Cleveland Clinic, Smith says. The world-renowned academic medical center based in Ohio will offer the expertise to help create new services for patients, such as facilitating communication between doctors and patients at home, via the Internet.

“There has been an evolution to get absolute health care in the home,” Smith notes, adding that platforms that support in-home monitoring and doctor/patient consultations using broadband will become as commonplace in the home health space as automated teller machines (ATMs) became in the banking industry. “We’ve been looking down the road and we see health care as a big opportunity. It makes sense as the capability of broadband expands.”

Cox recently committed to deliver residential Gigabit Internet speeds to all markets it serves by the end of 2016, which will make the quality of the services provided through Vivre Health even better, he says. He notes that Gigabit speed is roughly 100 times faster than the average Internet speed in homes today.

Telehealth platforms are shown to increase patient satisfaction, says Carol Rodat, the New York Policy Director for Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a nonprofit working to strengthen eldercare and disability services in the United States. PHI has been piloting various telehealth programs in New York for over a decade, including the Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Care: Evaluating Telehealth Roles for Home Care Workers in New York City initiative.

“We know it has value in New York,” Rodat says. “We’re seeing an increased comfort level [among patients], particularly if they live in a rural area or lack transportation. They know they can get in touch with someone more quickly, or know they are being monitored more closely.”

Telehealth technology is also proven to strengthen communication between home health aides and a patient’s doctor, she says, noting that home heath aides become a member of the care management team. Home health workers can use telehealth platforms to report how a patient is doing, or whether the patient has taken medicine as directed.

“This means home care can now be recognized for the very important role it plays in care coordination and management,” she says. “Home care aides can play that role to keep that individual out of a higher acuity setting. Hospitals are asking how to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. To do that you need those eyes and ears inside the home in some fashion.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell