Officials in Maryland have put out a call to nursing home operators and telehealth providers, offering $750,000 to the company that can create the most expansive tech solution for the state’s post-acute and long-term care facilities.
Following in the footsteps of the federal government and health systems across the country, the Maryland Health Care Commission lauded telehealth as a less expensive, high-quality care alternative for nursing homes and other post-discharge environments — specifically because of its potential for reducing unnecessary trips to emergency rooms and hospitals.
Other telehealth benefits potentially include catching burgeoning health issues in real time before problems escalate at a resident’s bedside, as well as enhancing a clinician’s ability to see more residents in a given day across several nursing homes.
“Telehealth helps providers treat the patient where they are, and can minimize the impact on nursing home residents that are especially vulnerable to the risks that accompany hospitalizations and transitions of care,” MHCC executive director Ben Steffen said in a statement.
Under the state’s plan, proposals from companies must clearly outline how they will connect patients, families, and other caregivers through remote interfaces in the post-acute setting, addressing the challenges of staff shortages or care coordination after hours.
The application calls for a two-year, five-year, and future-oriented program detailing the provider’s strategies and goals, as well as a clear path toward building an ongoing technology and clinical infrastructure of care through current provider networks.
Funding will not be allocated for the creation of new technology or the testing of technology improvements. The top applicant must illustrate a clear path for connecting nursing homes “with an established provider network consisting of licensed providers credentialed by participating nursing homes (where applicable),” according to the grant guidelines.
A letter of intent must be submitted to MHCC by December 20, and grant applications are due January 31. The grantee will be announced in March.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been using Maryland as a leading state to pilot strategies for reducing in hospitalizations and Medicare spending. In 2014, CMS initiated the Maryland All-Payer Model, created as a restrictive budgeting system for particular hospitals in the state to decrease Medicare hospital costs and to promote better clinical care for those Medicare recipients.
In light of the All-Payer Model’s success, CMS is partnering with the state to test the Maryland Total Cost of Care Initiative (TCOC) to decrease the cost of spending for individual Medicare beneficiaries outside of hospital systems, according to the CMS website. The TCOC initiative is incentivizing Maryland “to save Medicare over $1 billion by the end of 2023.”
Various telehealth companies have emerged in recent years to target the nursing home market, and a 2019 rule from CMS expanded Medicare Advantage plans’ ability to cover the services across multiple settings.
The exact solutions have taken various forms. The Boston based PatientPing, for example, provides software that alerts or “pings” area providers whenever a resident discharged from a SNF is admitted to another local care site.
Other providers, such as Tapestry Telehealth and Third Eye Health, virtually connect residents and nurses with physicians to provide around-the-clock care, and potentially avoiding readmissions with on-site interventions.