Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) took its first major step into the world of predictive analytics in August when it announced a minority investment in home health-focused data science firm Medalogix. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based company has now started to reap the rewards of that investment.

During the past few months, Amedisys has been fine-tuning its use of Medalogix Touch, a tool designed to slash re-hospitalization rates and keep patients away from the emergency room through its risk stratification and interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities. Amedisys — one of the largest home health, hospice and personal care companies in the country — rolled out the tool as part of a six-month pilot across 43 participating locations.

“With a company this size, piloting something is so important to make sure we work out all the processes and ensure we have a smooth transition,” Carolyn Erskine, assistant vice president of nursing innovation at Amedisys, told Home Health Care News. “Anecdotally, we’ve been getting some good results — and patient feedback has been positive.”

Overall, Amedisys has 472 care centers across 38 states and Washington, D.C. The locations participating in the pilot are scattered throughout all four of its geographic regions, Erskine said.

Medalogix Touch — integrated directly into Amedisys’ electronic medical record (EMR) system — works by analzying historical information to predict which patients are at the highest risk of hospital readmission. The tool uses IVR and automated calling to check up on high-risk patients based on those insights, asking them a handful of key questions to potentially uncover any health-related red flags.

One question, for example, is: “Are you feeling more tired, weak or anxious than usual?”

If any red flags are raised,  an Amedisys call center employee then follows up with patients directly and coordinates any necessary in-person clinician visits. So far during the six-month Medalogix Touch pilot, the time between a red flag and an Amedisys follow-up call has been 26 minutes.

“I think patients feel reassured knowing that they’re part of this calling program,” Erskine said. “Clinicians obviously can’t go see patients every day. This calling program gives that patient an opportunity to have another daily ‘touchpoint,’ where we can see how they’re doing.”

After an initial enrollment call to gauge patient interest in the program, the Medalogix Touch platform schedules daily automatic calls for 14 days. Over time, that lessens to three times a week for another two-week period.

Avoiding the ER

Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health Corporation (NYSE: EHC) is likewise among the group of home health providers actively using or experimenting with Medalogix Touch. While using the program, according to one Medalogix case study, Encompass Health has seen a 32% reduction in re-hospitalizations for patients enrolled in automated calls.

In other case studies, Medalogix Touch has been shown to reduce transfers to all in-patient facilities from home health census by up to 37%, CEO Elliott Wood told HHCN.

That can make a huge impact on home health agency operations, he said, especially as quality data becomes more transparent.

“Everybody is worried about stars. Everybody is very focused on acute-care hospital (ACH) rates,” Wood said. “If a patient’s plan of care is disrupted in the middle of an episode and that patient is going back to a hospital, then you have all sorts of negative things that could happen.”

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and referral partners are also keenly aware of a home health provider’s ability to keep patients out of the hospital and away from the emergency room, he added.

It’s a point that Amedisys CEO and President Paul Kusserow — who formerly served as senior vice president and chief strategy, innovations and corporate development officer of Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) — has similarly echoed in the past.

“In order for us to move into where the world’s going to from a risk-based environment, we need to have the data, business intelligence [capabilities] at an individual patient level to drive better outcomes,” Kusserow previously told HHCN. “You have to be able to predict on a very regular basis who’s your highest risk and how you are going to alter your care plan so you can stop unnecessary hospitalizations.”

Embracing technology

Further embracing technology that supports its patient population is one of Amedisys’s main goals for 2019, as is reducing overall ACH rates across its home health network.

Amedisys doesn’t have any concrete data to share from its pilot at this point, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t already been making a difference, Erskine said.

Recently, an Amedisys heart failure patient suffering “alarming symptoms” planned on going to the emergency room. Before that patient had a chance to make the rip, however, an automatic call came through that helped alert Amedisys to the situation. Ultimately, the patient was able to avoid the ER.

“That’s what we’re looking at down the road — how [Medalogix Touch] has affected our ACH rate, how it’s affected our patients who are going to the ER,” Erskine said. “A lot of them live home alone. A lot of them have a significant other who is also maybe compromised medically. Knowing they have someone to check on them gives them a little bit of reassurance, so maybe they won’t be so quick to run to the ER or panic.”

Besides Touch, Nashville, Tennessee-based Medalogix’s other predictive analytics tools include Bridge, Nurture and Care.

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