VA cuts health care spending with in-home monitoring systems

The United States could cut $200 billion in health spending in the next 25 years by following a similar program, but first must establish a national broadband network, official says.

The Veterans Affairs Department has used in-home monitoring and teleconferencing systems to cut hospital admissions by 19 percent and save tens of thousands of dollars in patient care, results that have implications for lowering U.S. health care spending if a national broadband network can be established, a top official at the Federal Communications Commission told a Senate hearing.

Mohit Kaushal, health care director for FCC, told a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging on April 22 that through the remote systems clinicians used to treat patients at home, VA has reduced hospital admissions for 32,000 patients enrolled in its Care Coordination Home Telehealth Program.

The department also saved tens of thousands of dollars a year by using the in-home monitoring system. The annual cost to check on veterans in their home was $1,600 per patient compared with $13,121 for home-based primary care services and $77,745 per patient per year for care in a nursing home.

Kaushal said the United States could cut at least $200 billion during the next 25 years if it could use home telehealth systems, which require a broadband network.

Iraqi war veteran Joseph "Jay" Briseno Jr., who was paralyzed and blinded by his wounds and lives in Northern Virginia outside Washington, is among the patients helped by the system. VA said it uses broadband technology like videoconferencing systems to monitor his condition and care, including operation of a ventilator and cameras to check Briseno's skin condition.

The department has given veterans with diabetes devices to conduct glucose tests at home. The equipment automatically records patients' weight and blood pressure, and the results are transmitted to a VA hospital.

The department requested a home telehealth budget of $175 million for fiscal 2011, but Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee recommended in March that the budget be increased to $215 million, or 23 percent.