West Virginia hospital system sees readmission reductions from patient education initiative

By Heather Mack
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A telehealth initiative at Charleston Area Medical Center led to reduced readmission rates for several chronic conditions, the health system reported today.

What led to the reductions wasn’t the advent of video consultations with specialists or sophisticated biometric sensor monitoring, but health information for patients and workflow integration for hospital staff via , TeleHealth Services’s interactive patient education and engagement platform that offers videos designed to educate patients about their care and medication.

As only 12 percent of US adults have the proficient health literacy required to self-manage their health, the four-hospital West Virginia system launched the initiative in 2015 to see what they could do to improve that statistic. With SmarTigr, they developed condition-specific curriculums – which are available in multiple languages – and then “prescribed” the videos, which are integrated into smart TVs, hospital software platforms and mobile applications. Patients then complete quizzes, and the hospital staff review reports of patient compliance and comprehension, and all measurements become part of the patient’s medical record.

By deploying SmarTigr, CAMC documented a reversal to the rising trend of readmissions for congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic conditions like pneumonia within the system. By 2016, readmission rates for CHF fell by over 22 percent and COPD by almost 30 percent. 

“Many patients are visual learners and can better retain information from videos than from reading patient handouts,” Dr. Don Lilly, a cardiologist and associate chief medical officer at CAMC, said in a statement. “Videos along with corresponding quizzes through the television in their room stimulate conversations and facilitate learning for the whole family. When patients involve their family members in the process, they have more support and a greater chance of compliance once they go home. That helps to keep them from coming back to the hospital.”

Lilly developed a standard educational approach by working with registered nurse Beverly Thornton, CAMC’s Health Education and Research Institute education director, as well as two “nurse navigators,” who work directly with the front-line nurses. They developed disease-specific video prescriptions for CHF and COPD that give a detailed list of educational content videos patients are to watch before they are discharged, followed by quizzes.

The feedback from patients has been positive. Nurses report patients say the SmarTigr system is easy to use and follow along, and some ask if they can watch videos again during family visits. Thornton said the success of the program has been an impetus for other units in CAMC outside of CHF and COPD treatment to also adopt the TeleHealth Services stategy.

“Seeing this positive trend in reducing readmissions and improving satisfaction has led other units and departments to look at the patient engagement system as a way to improve delivery of education and better prepare patients for taking care of themselves after discharge,” Thornton said in a statement. 

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