By Deborah Leyva

Link: Early Savings from Banner Telehealth Pilot

 Health Data Management (in the above link) reported savings from use of Telehealth that resulted in reductions in readmissions and healthcare costs. The ONC’s Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan 2011-2015 described the use of technology to improve care, improve population health and reduce per capita costs of health care.  Goal II defined opportunities to Improve Care, Improve Population Health, and Reduce Health Care Costs through the Use of Health IT.

This same technology could be used in an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) to improve care and reduce costs. Systems, like telehealth, have been implemented in certain ACOs. Remote monitoring, mobile health (mHealth), and the medical home have the potential to positively affect patient lives.

The light bulb has been turned ON. Healthcare is migrating from a disease management system to a “National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy” that prevents adverse health conditions where possible, anticipates and responds to threats and emergencies and identifies at-risk populations. To me, this strategy represents the goals for ACOs.

Reducing spend for ACO populations is key to health transformation and overall cost reductions in Medicare spending. According to the Banner Health Telehealth pilot, results were dramatic. By having a strong support system for patients, clinicians were able to “collect and analyze objective and subjective health information to identify early stages of deterioration” and to prevent worsening health conditions. Banner health reported enrolling its 500th patient into their program.

An Accountable Care Organization has a minimum of 5,000 patients with care coordinators responsible for monitoring patient status. Their beneficiaries are located throughout a geographic area and the ACO could gain significant cost reductions with positive patient care opportunities using Telehealth.

Several years ago, I was asked to be a panelist on a Bloomberg webinar on Telehealth. The question at the time was simple, “Is telehealth a viable alternative to face-to-face patient care?” I believed it then, and I believe it now, when used in appropriate situations. For more information on Telemedicine and its Telehealth subpart, read this post about the World Health Organization and Telemedicine Opportunities.


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