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Springfield, MO

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Title: PresidentCompanies: Advanced Telehealth Solutions and Oxford HealthCareEducation: Bachelor’s in accounting and Master of Business Administration, Missouri State University. Thomas also is a certified management accountant. Industry connections: Thomas’ work in the telehealth arena has garnered industry and government attention. She serves on the advisory board for the Health Care Technology Association of America and testified this spring before the federal office of National Coordination. Contact: karenthomas@oxfordhealthcare.net
Title: President
Companies: Advanced Telehealth Solutions and Oxford HealthCare
Education: Bachelor’s in accounting and Master of Business Administration, Missouri State University. Thomas also is a certified management accountant.
Industry connections: Thomas’ work in the telehealth arena has garnered industry and government attention. She serves on the advisory board for the Health Care Technology Association of America and testified this spring before the federal office of National Coordination.
Contact: karenthomas@oxfordhealthcare.net

A Conversation With ... Karen Thomas

Posted online
What is Oxford’s recently launched sister company, introduced earlier this year?
It’s called Advanced Telehealth Solutions. We developed this new company because when people think about home health, across the nation, they think of acute events – they went to the hospital, or they’re newly diagnosed or they had surgery, and they think of home health as isolated to those situations. But this company (is) really telehealth, and it reaches all types of people, and it’s not necessarily the home-bound population. It’s really focusing on that working, younger population – though they can be older, too – and helping them control their disease processes. With (our) software and equipment, we (track) things and are able to send (information) to the physician and let the physician know how (the patient) is doing – not just what’s going on that day, but how they’ve been trending. Our primary technology is a Care Innovations device and a Honeywell device. We’re also in talks with Continuity Health Solutions.

Which patients can telehealth monitoring help most?
(Studies show) that it’s the top 5 percent of members of insurance (plans) or businesses who are going to make up 55 percent of the costs, and most of those people have multiple diseases where they need intense care. And it’s that smaller population that telehealth really has a strong impact on, both financially and for the care of the patient. We’re focusing on those clients who have a chronic illness. It might be hypertension (or) congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or any heart problems.

How can Advanced Telehealth Solutions help this demographic?
We help them by, essentially, being able to work with them on a daily basis (to) really understand what’s going on with them clinically, because we’re checking their vital signs. And in addition to that, when something goes wrong, that’s when we’re actually teaching them and helping them understand what’s going on. We’re able to drastically reduce costs for insurance companies and for employers who are self-insured, and we provide better quality of life for the employees.

Are insurance companies embracing telehealth coverage?
Insurance companies are still somewhat resistant. Humana and Aetna, however, are using the technology and paying for it, so I think we’re seeing an uptick. We are working with third-party administrators and individual companies because companies are seeing that they need to do something. As the work force ages, the cost of health care is not going to go down, even if nothing else changes. And I think as time goes on, I think you’ll see more (insurance companies) work with (telehealth).

What’s an example of telehealth’s applications outside the home-health setting?
We have recently signed a contract with a national company (that is) self-insured, and have opted to use (telehealth technology) for their employees. (The company has) contracted with us to monitor those clients, and what we’ll then be able to do is work with their employees (to) help them control their diabetic disease process.

Can you share an example of cost savings with telehealth technology?
(One project study) was for 1,200 people who are not home-bound but were on telehealth monitors, (and it showed) that we were able to reduce hospitalizations by 57 percent for those people who were really having issues. ... . In some cases, it’s acceptable to estimate that a hospitalization is probably about $7,500. So any time you reduce a hospitalization, you reduce that by a significant amount of money.

What did you talk about in March before the Office of National Coordination?
This particular testimony was about what would be included in meaningful use and how would we develop standards around telehealth so it fits into the coordination of care across the whole spectrum.

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