ATandT, VRI Craft Patient Monitoring System to Cut Hospital Readmissions

AT&T is working with telehealth vendor VRI on a platform to remotely monitor patients at home using wireless medical devices.

AT&T is collaborating with health services provider Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI) to develop a remote-monitoring platform to help manage chronic conditions and reduce hospital readmissions.

Based in Franklin, Ohio, VRI offers medical alert systems to notify doctors of emergencies in the home. The company also offers remote monitoring and electronic medication dispensers.

"AT&T will sell the VRI remote patient monitoring solution to its customers as part of a managed service," Eleanor Chye, executive director for mobility health care and pharma at AT&T Business and Home Solutions, told eWEEK in an email.

The service will allow nurses at VRI's telemonitoring facility to monitor patients' vital data, including blood pressure, weight and pulse. Blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and pulse oximeters will connect to AT&T's wireless network to send biometric data to care representatives at VRI.

VRI's proprietary analytics tool contains an algorithm for each disease set and allows nurses at the company's telemonitoring centers to analyze biometric readings. They will then contact patients and doctors if follow-up is required.

The analytics tool will be combined with middleware AT&T is developing so that population reporting can be generated from VRI and other AT&T mobile-health data platforms, said Chye.

Along with wireless connectivity, AT&T will also provide sales, marketing, enterprise billing and customer support for the VRI telemonitoring platform, she said.

When chronic conditions such as asthma, heart conditions and diabetes aren't monitored closely, hospitalizations and readmissions occur that may be avoidable using remote-monitoring technology, AT&T reported.

In addition to reducing readmissions, remote monitoring allows patients to reduce their time while in the hospital, Chye noted.

AT&T announced the news on May 1 and demonstrated the technology at the American Telemedicine Association conference (ATA 2012), which ran from April 30-May 1.

The service will be available in the third quarter of 2012 and named at that time, according to AT&T.

"Patients will have peace of mind knowing their biometric data is being monitored for trending analyses, to improve outcomes and help prevent relapses," Randall Porter, assistant vice president of AT&T ForHealth, said in a statement. Launched in 2010, ForHealth is AT&T's health care business focused on mobility and the cloud.

The collaboration between AT&T and VRI could make remote patient monitoring easier to deploy and scale, according to Andy Schoonover, CEO of VRI.

"Providers and payers no longer have to finance, deploy or monitor the alerts gathered by telehealth devices," Schoonover said in a statement.

Instead, VRI will monitor patients' vital signs for them using its telehealth service and notify doctors if care is required, said Schoonover.

Health care software vendor Phytel also offers an application to help patients avoid readmissions. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) product Hospital Readmission Management allows doctors to receive results of patient surveys through a portal that Phytel hosts.

Despite low use of remote-monitoring systems, two-thirds of consumers are familiar with the term "remote monitoring," according to a Feb. 21 white paper by Qualcomm and HIMSS Analytics, a division of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the nonprofit organization focused on promoting the growth of health care IT.

In the survey of 125 consumers, respondents had concerns about remote monitoring related to pricing, data privacy and changing relationships with caregivers.