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Sep. 8, 2023

There’s a hefty price to pay for hospitalization – both financially and physically – perhaps even emotionally. That’s why keeping patients well and out of the emergency room or hospital is a WellMed goal.

A pilot program, started in April this year, is aimed at keeping post-discharge, high-risk patients on an appointment schedule to hinder hospital readmission. The program uses the GrandPad tablet as a virtual personal assistant to help patients manage, remember and keep their appointments with their providers.

The GrandPad pilot is managed by Robert Stubbs, senior clinic program manager with the clinical innovations team. “We’re already seeing the use of GrandPads make a difference with our high-risk patients,” he said. “They have their own device they can use to stay in touch with us, manage their appointments, and when the time comes for an appointment, see a clinician by way of telemedicine technology.”

A total of 600 of the tablets have been designated for use in the pilot. Although the numbers change daily, currently, about 120 patients are participating in Corpus Christi, 114 in Austin and 102 in El Paso, and the number is growing every day. “We know there is a tremendous need for these devices,” Robert said. “We’ve identified 800 high-risk patients in the El Paso area alone who would benefit from using a GrandPad.”

The newest phase for the GrandPad pilot began July 1 and includes expanded criteria to include patients who:

  • Have had three or more emergency room visits in a six-month period.
  • Have been hospitalized two or more times in a six-month period.
  • Are newly diagnosed with cancer.
  • Have chronic heart failure and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and have had two or more ER visits in a six-month period.
  • Fall within certain socioeconomic parameters that make them a high risk.

Here’s how the program works: When a high-risk patient is sent home from a hospital or skilled nursing facility, they are loaned a GrandPad from the clinic. After it has been issued, a member experience employee will call the patient and go over how to use it.

The devices are designed for older adults. Large buttons and one-touch operation for many features make it easy to use. The tablet includes the capability for telemedicine virtual appointments, has a button that connects the patient with on-demand care, includes a calendar to track appointments and a pre-programmed button to reach their clinic.

Clinic staff schedule patients for an appointment two to three days after going home. Within a week they will see their doctor or nurse practitioner, and will also receive other appointments with nursing staff.

The GrandPads create administrative efficiency for staff as well. They can connect with the device to add appointments to the calendar, send appointment reminders, and send messages to remind patients of after-hours and on-demand support.

“Telemedicine and these devices continue to change the way we provide the critical care these patients need,” Robert said. “We can’t afford to lose touch with them and have them end up back in the hospital. GrandPads are helping us to offer continual care.”

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