In the past, when a patient was admitted to a hospital, received treatment and was ultimately discharged, all the doctors did was provide discharge instructions. These instructions were intended to serve as a guide for treating their disease and staying healthy.

Unfortunately, this system wasn’t extremely effective, as many discharged patients found themselves back in hospitals shortly after leaving with complications, relapses and other issues. This was a problem for the health of the patient, as well as the payer community, which would have to pay for multiple visits or stays in the hospital.

As we discussed in a previous post, the federal government put a program in place to reduce readmissions and curb the cost of healthcare. In the new system, hospitals are fined from the government if patients are readmitted to a hospital unnecessarily within 30 days of discharge.

Between these new readmission fines and an overall desire to keep patients healthier, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the old system of giving a patient discharge instructions and sending them on their way is no longer acceptable or sustainable. But thanks to new technologies, there are other options.

The proliferation of tablet computers and Internet connected devices, as well as the rise of cloud-based video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions, is opening new doors for the continued treatment and home care of patients when they leave the hospital’s walls.

New applications, such as Vivify Health’s cloud-based platform, automate patient care and bring the patient’s care team into the home, reducing the need for the patient to go to the hospital. Using these applications, a patient’s care team can provide health coaching, conduct health measurements and automate patient monitoring through individually-customized care plans, health surveys and vital measurements. Configurable alerts can even identify when vital signs reach certain thresholds and engage caregivers when attention is needed.

At the 2013 American Telemedicine Association Conference, Vivify announced that they will be integrating Polycom’s video collaboration into their Software as a Service Remote Care Management Platform. This adds additional engagement opportunities by enabling patients to meet face-to-face with their care team including doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals. Combined, these solutions vastly improve the care delivery model and get healthcare professionals more engaged in the continued care of the patient.

Patients will now be able to see videos better detailing their discharge instructions and other educational content on tablets, laptops and other Internet-enabled devices. Patient information, vitals, and alerts will be transmitted in real time to the cloud based portal for follow-up or intervention. Patients that are in need of help will be able to get in front of a doctor and receive assistance via VTC without having to go back to the hospital. It’s almost as if the care team is there, in the patient’s home.

In addition to helping keep discharged patients from re-entering hospitals and helping to battle readmission rates, these solutions can also benefit another expensive and widespread issue in our country – chronic health conditions.

Conditions such as Congestive Heart Failure, pneumonia, diabetes and more, require constant management, frequent care and repeat check-ups. Giving patients access to solutions that can help keep medical professionals apprised of their condition and connecting them with doctors via video should they need assistance can dramatically reduce the number of trips they make to the doctor’s office.

The integration of VTC solutions into the cloud-based applications that are driving patient engagement is helping to better connect patients with their care teams and bring doctors directly into a patient’s home. By better educating patients, keeping care teams apprised of their condition and connecting them with their care team via video, these new technologies can keep patients out of hospitals, cut down readmission rates and ultimately improve the overall health of patients.