A telehealth pilot targeting wound care patients has helped AccentCare cut costs and reduce readmissions for participating offices. As a result, the program — made possible through a partnership with virtual care platform Synzi — will soon see a larger rollout.
The program could serve as an example for the hoards of providers industry-wide hoping to crack the wound care code.
“In an office that’s running, in general, an 11% hospitalization rate, this population [with] this intervention had a 4% rate,” AccentCare’s Chief Medical Officer Gregory Sheff told Home Health Care News, referring to the pilot.
Dallas-based AccentCare — which is in the process of being acquired by private equity giant Advent International — offers post-acute care services across more than 190 locations nationwide.
St. Petersburg, Florida-based Synzi offers agencies virtual care platforms that can be deployed in patients’ homes to help supplement in-person caregiver visits. The platform uses a combination of video, email and secure messaging.
The three-month pilot focused on home health wound care in a handful of AccentCare offices in rural Mississippi, where access to appropriate specialists is often limited. Its goal was to improve that access with technology, which came in the form of an application developed by Synzi.
Home health aides used the HIPAA-compliant application to reach one of two on-demand wound care specialists remotely via video — rather than have them drive to the patient’s home for a consultation. The application could also be used by patients directly.
“By removing travel time … [ specialists can] broadly share their experience across the geography more efficiently,” Sheff said. “Otherwise you get into these forced decisions for the clinicians in the field: ‘Do I need a wound care nurse? Is it worth having a wound care nurse drive out?’ We don’t want them thinking that. If they have any questions, we want them reaching out.”
And reach out they did: During the pilot, wound care specialists did four virtual visits for every one in-person visit.
In addition to reducing readmission and saving time and money on travel, the pilot also resulted in reduced supply costs, Sheff confirmed, though he didn’t share specifics.
“It’s a very efficient way to give care,” Sheff said. “We think it has a very positive return on investment, but, regardless, we think the ability to deliver more expert care more broadly is worth the investment anyway.”
In one example, the application helped AccentCare identify an opportunity to save thousands of dollars on a single patient, Synzi CEO Lee Horner told HHCN.
During a video consultation through the application, the wound care specialist noticed the home health aide was about to change out bandages that looked brand new.
“The patient and the RN were changing the bandages out a daily basis [instead of] a weekly basis,” Horner said. “The cost associated on that specific patient was above $2,400 based on how they were using the bandages currently. They were changing [them] out way too fast.”
After the successful 120-visit pilot concluded earlier this year, AccentCare and Synzi struck a deal to roll the program out on a wider basis.
“We’re now looking to expand it into other parts of the Southeast and also into Texas,” Sheff said. “We’ll continue to expand it over time. We’re also looking at other use cases [beyond wound care].”
Why wound care?
Improving efficiencies and outcomes around wound care isn’t only a target AccentCare — it’s a priority for home health agencies throughout the industry.
Currently, wound care is one of the most frequently used clinical groupings — and the one that requires the most home health resources — according to statistics from wound care management technology company Swift Medical.
On top of that, wound care will be one of the highest areas of reimbursement under the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), which takes effect Jan. 1.
But AccentCare’s new program is about more than that, Sheff said.
“Our interest in this was not PDGM-related,” he said. “We’re focused on how we can change how care is delivered in the home [for] better outcomes and more value. This program is really one piece of a larger strategy.”
Meanwhile, Horner likened the benefits of the remote wound care programs to those expected to be seen under with remote therapy programs. In other words, using telehealth to replace visits from specialists can get agencies better bang for their buck under PDGM — while also improving patient outcomes.
“Things like the amount of visits that are being delivered on a monthly basis [matter under PDGM],” Horner said. “Being able to augment some of those in person visits with a technology like ours is very powerful.”
Other Synzi partners include Florida’s Trilogy Home Healthcare, which signed up for the communication platform in May 2018. California-based Imperial Home Health also became a new Synzi client earlier this week.