MONTPELIER >> Vermont doctors and health care providers can now monitor if their patient has entered an emergency room or been admitted to a hospital or nursing home with a new online app.
PatientPing is being used around the state in a pilot program supported by a federal grant.
Before, health care providers had relied on phone calls or faxes to get that information about their patients. But that didn't always happen.
"I personally heard loud and clear from our clinicians that faxes and phone calls were hard to manage because it required a lot of active work by people," said Georgia Maheras, Vermont's deputy director of health care reform.
The co-founder of the Boston-based PatientPing also heard about the challenges facing providers when he worked for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation 7/8— on programs to improve the quality and reduce the cost of health care.
"So that was just something that we kept hearing over and over again from people, 'so, tell me where my patients are' and there wasn't a good infrastructure out there to do this in a light weight way," said Jay Desai.
Just two weeks into using it, Debra Gaylord, manager of the care coordination program for provider network Community Health Accountable Care, is a big fan.
She pulls PatientPing up on her computer to see if any patients have been admitted to a hospital or discharged, which she said is a crucial time when patients can get lost in the system. After going home, it might be a week or 10 days before a patient sees his or her physician. Or, the patient may be instructed to make an appointment but doesn't, because he or she feels better.
With PatientPing, Community Health is able to get discharged patients into transition programs and provide them support they need medically so they don't automatically return to the hospital, she said. Getting that information in real time helps, supporters have said, because in the past, health care providers may not have known immediately, if at all, when a patient had been discharged.
"It's going to definitely save money. And it's going to give them a lot better care," she said.
Support for use of the technology in Vermont comes from more than four-year $45 million grant to the state to test its health care innovation plan, which includes a shifting away from a pay-per-service model. Maheras estimates the PatientPing pilot could use up to around $900,000 of the grant.
State and federal dollars will cover 70 percent of the cost and providers pay 30 percent through the end of 2016. Health care providers would pay for the technology after the pilot.
So far, two Vermont accountable care organizations — Community Health and OneCare Vermont — have signed contracts to use the technology, which Desai said costs between $100 a month for a small provider to $10,000 a month for a large corporation.
It's used in six states with Vermont being the first to deploy it statewide.