Eastern Iowa hospitals partner with University of Iowa on telehealth project

Iowans will benefit from funding announced today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The University of Iowa, in partnership with 11 Iowa hospitals comprising the UI Critical Access Hospital Network, has received a $7.7 million Health Care Innovation Award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve care coordination and communication with practitioners in ten rural Iowa counties.

The award will be used to develop transitional care teams to improve quality and reduce costs for rural patients with complex illness, including psychiatric disorders, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, endocrine and gastrointestinal disorders, and geriatric issues. The program will serve Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicare/Medicaid dual-eligible beneficiaries as well as privately insured and uninsured patients. It is estimated that the program will save $12.5 million in health care costs over three years.

"This project will improve the quality of care for rural Iowans who are hospitalized at UI Hospitals and Clinics by creating a new model of care to facilitate the transition from our hospital to the community," says Gary Rosenthal, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and health management and policy. "The new model will more closely connect UI Health Care physicians, nurses, social workers, and pharmacists with the rural providers who will be seeing the patients after the discharge."

The project will optimize the use of electronic medical records and telehealth technologies to improve communications channels with patients, their families, and the local providers they will see after discharge.

UI Health Care has long-standing experience in creating telehealth care teams for patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure. This expertise forms the basis for the new program, which will increase access to services and specialty care, allow patients to receive more care in their local communities, and lower health care costs by decreasing hospital readmissions and costly emergency room visits.

"It's important to note that this project would not have been possible without the strong commitment of the 11 Iowa critical access hospitals that will act as hubs for coordinating the new transitional care model," Rosenthal adds. "From the outset, the development of this model has represented a strong partnership between UI Health Care and the critical access hospitals."

The 11 hospitals in the network are Waverly Health Center; Iowa Specialty Hospital, Clarion campus; Iowa Specialty Hospital, Belmond campus; Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant; Van Buren County Hospital in Keosauqua; Virginia Gay Hospital in Vinton; Jefferson County Health Center in Fairfield; Keokuk County Health Center in Sigourney; Pella Regional Health Center; Washington County Hospital and Clinics in Washington; and Marengo Memorial Hospital.

Over the three-year period of the grant, the University of Iowa's program also will train an estimated 22 workers and create an estimated 28 jobs.

In addition to Rosenthal, UI faculty Peter Cram, M.D., professor of internal medicine, and Carolyn Turvey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, played important roles in the development of the care model.

The award was one of 81 announced today by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations

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