Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin has received an innovation award from the Illinois Health and Hospital Association for its mobile integrated health care program, where paramedics visit patients at home to help them learn to manage their conditions and avoid hospital readmission.
The program consists of two paramedics -- full-timer Ken Snow and part-timer Sue Lencioni -- who do weekly home visits for 30 days for certain patients after they have been discharged. The team has seen 220 or so patients this year.
The program was the first of its kind in the state when it launched in December 2015. Last year, it resulted in 57% fewer readmissions and 29% fewer emergency room visits for a total $2.7 million in savings, according to hospital data. The statistics are based on the ER/readmission rates of the patients enrolled in the program compared to 12 months prior.
Eligible patients are over 18, live in the hospital's service area and suffer from asthma, diabetes, heart attack, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure or pneumonia, or are going through cancer care. For cancer patients, the program is about management of symptoms -- not treatment, which is separate -- such as nausea, vomiting, pain or dehydration.
The hospital doesn't get paid when people with certain insurance are readmitted within 30 days and can receive penalties, said Tina Link, director of community outreach for the hospital. But aside from savings, the goal is to ensure people stay healthy and know how to manage their conditions, she said.
"If they are coming in because their diabetes is not managed properly, then they get discharged and go home and two days later they come back with the same symptoms," she said, "clearly we are not doing something on our end or educating them properly."
"We go to their home so we can help re-educate them in what they were taught here. Maybe they were not comfortable asking questions, maybe they need to go over things again," Link said.
Advocate Sherman was among five winners selected last week from 57 submissions judged by a national panel for the annual awards. The other winners were NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Garfield Park Behavioral Hospital in Chicago, Taylorville Memorial Hospital in Taylorville and HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese.
The Elgin hospital was the first in Illinois to be approved to offer mobile integrated health care via on-staff paramedics. There are about nine other hospitals that partner with their local fire departments, which provide paramedics for similar programs, Link said.
Dr. Azmey Matarieh, a cardiologist at Advocate Sherman, said some patients can be reluctant to receive home visits but the majority welcome the chance to get help without having to go to the hospital. Matarieh said hospital readmissions can lead to an increase in "bad outcomes" and even death for patients.