Services like HealthLoop are increasingly in demand as Medicare changes its payment system to encourage hospitals to become more responsible for patients' clinical and financial outcomes over the entire episode of care—that is from the time they were admitted to the hospital until 90 days after discharge.
“It's the new revenue cycle,” said HealthLoop CEO Todd Johnson, adding that Medicare and Medicaid are shifting billions of dollars in payments into episode-based reimbursement schemes. The CMS' latest program, which covers bypass surgery, heart attacks, hip and femur fractures, represents about $11 billion in annual spending.
HealthLoop was founded in 2009. It was initially conceived as a tool for physician practices, and it developed a good following, especially among orthopedists. These physician groups helped it get a foothold in larger healthcare organizations.
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare in Chicago was introduced to the company by an orthopedist, who was a “strong champion” of the technology, said Jodi Rosen, director of innovation at Northwestern. A yearlong pilot includes 19 physicians across three departments.
“Large healthcare systems understand that they have to find ways to reach patients outside the four walls,” Johnson said. The company built a library of over 110 care plans for numerous specialties, including orthopedics and cardiology, and for chronic disease management, he said.
With HealthLoop, patients receive a daily text or email from their doctor, asking them to “check in” and linking to HealthLoop's website (either a mobile site or a regular website). Patients answer several questions designed to assess their health and instruct them on what to do in the days leading up to surgery and once they are discharged from the hospital. The questions are also designed to be empathetic and reassure patients, Johnson said. Algorithms monitor patient responses, flagging potential problems and sending alerts to hospital staff. If the hospital doesn't have staff to receive the alerts, patients are directed to seek help through a nursing triage line or a physician.
HealthLoop also helps health organizations collect patient-reported outcomes, which are surveys used by Medicare to help measure hospitals' overall quality. About 60% of its patients answered patient-reported outcomes questions over a span of about a year, according to the company that used data from 20,326 patients.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, which deployed HealthLoop this summer in its orthopedic center, began experimenting with bundling orthopedic care four years ago. It created a new role—nurse navigators—who are responsible for educating patients about what to expect before the surgery and overseeing their care through the post-discharge period, said Mike Anderes, vice president for Digital Health for Froedtert Health and the chief operating officer of Inception Health, a company formed by the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin to accelerate the adoption of digital health.
Anderes hopes that HealthLoop will improve nurse navigators' efficiency by automating parts of the job. He hopes the tool will enable them to increase their caseload from about 50 to 200 patients with improved ability to stay in touch and intervene with patients when they veer off course.
Lisa Ward is a freelance writer based in Mendham, N.J.