A decade ago, Banner Health launched a telehealth program in its intensive care units (ICUs) to address the dearth of critical care physicians available for traditional bedside care — a problem facing many essential hospitals.

As a result of the program, the health system in 2014 saw 1,890 fewer deaths in the ICU than statistically predicted and saved about $109 million in costs associated with ICU and hospital stays, according to Deb Dahl, vice president of patient care innovation at Banner. In the wake of the program’s successes, tele-ICU has become the standard of care across all of Banner’s hospitals.

Dahl said the health system now is expanding its telehealth resources to other areas of its hospitals, such as medical/surgical and stepdown units, and even into patients’ homes.

At three of its hospitals — Banner Gateway Medical Center, Banner Ironwood Medical Center, and Banner Ft. Collins Medical Center — the health system has added telehealth technology to every adult bed (with the exception of those in the obstetrics department). The technology includes

  • two-way audio/video equipment; and
  • wearable devices to monitor and transmit data to patients’ electronic health records.

Meanwhile, Banner has partnered with Philips on a newer program, called iCare, for at-home monitoring of more than 600 patients who have at least five chronic conditions and are covered under a risk-based contract.

Each patient receives a comprehensive remote-monitoring and care management telehealth program on a specially designed tablet computer, which allows the patient to communicate with providers. In addition, biosensors — such as scales, blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters — are sent home with the patients and data from the devices are monitored by nurses. When data from the tablet software or biosensors suggest problems, nurses can call patients or ask a health coach to make a home visit.

So far, the at-home program has reduced the cost of care by 34 percent and the hospitalization rate by 68% per beneficiary per year, according to Dahl.