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UI awarded $7.6 million for health care innovation

BY NICHOLAS MILLER | JUNE 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Officials say the $7.6 million Health-Care Innovation award recently granted to the University of Iowa will ultimately save $12.5 million in health-care costs by improving communication between the UI Hospitals and Clinics, the Critical Access Hospital Network, and discharged patients.

The Critical Access Hospital Network is a group of 11 small hospitals in rural Iowa. Most of the hospitals have fewer than 25 beds and offer limited medical services.

"Iowans continue to see the benefits of health reform, and this grant award represents the best of our state's innovation and research capacity in health care," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in a Senate press release. "The University of Iowa is pursuing innovative approaches to health-care delivery — particularly in rural areas. With this award, it will have additional resources to continue its work, while increasing access to quality care and creating jobs."

The $7.6 million award — announced by Harkin on June 15 — according to the release, "will serve Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicare/Medicaid dual-eligible beneficiaries and privately insured and uninsured patients who have complex illness."

The program will create jobs by establishing transitional-care teams comprising nurses, social workers, pharmacists, psychiatrists, and specialty physicians to provide care through telehealth and web-based medical records.

The UI was one of 81 institutions nationwide selected for the award.

"It is wonderful to be a part of a project like this to identify innovative solutions to make care better," said Gary Rosenthal, a UI professor of internal medicine. "It gives us access to network with other innovative health-care systems."

After patients are discharged from the UIHC and sent home, they will be able to communicate with UI care providers through various technologies from their local health-care provider.

The long-distance telehealth care will save the patients from rural areas money by decreasing hospital and emergency room visits. The $12.5 million will be saved through a decrease in readmittances and emergency-room visits made possible by long distance telehealth care.

"When you don't keep up good communication, patients get into trouble and need to be readmitted to the hospital," Rosenthal said.

Patients will also have access to a program called "My Chart," in which they can individually facilitate communication and ask questions of health-care providers. It will also help doctors to monitor patients outside the hospital, Rosenthal said.

Van Buren Country Hospital is one of the 11 hospitals in the Critical Access Hospital Network. Debbie Randolph, the director of marketing and public relations for the hospital, said web-based medical records will decrease risks in emergency situations.

"Before, if we sent [patients] to the university in an emergency, they wouldn't have their records," she said. "Now, they will be able to go in and get started; it solves a safety issue for the hospital and the patients."


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