A Popular Dementia Telehealth Program Boosts Outcomes, Eases Caregiver Burden, and Lowers Medicare Costs

A Popular Dementia Telehealth Program Boosts Outcomes, Eases Caregiver Burden, and Lowers Medicare Costs

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine highlights the benefits of a popular dementia telehealth program. The program, called Care Ecosystem, not only improves outcomes for people with dementia but also alleviates the burden on paid caregivers while reducing Medicare costs.

The study, conducted by researchers from UCSF, involved 780 participants with dementia who were divided into two groups. One group received support from the telecare platform Care Ecosystem, while the other group received usual care. The researchers evaluated the program’s impact over the course of one year, considering factors such as age, severity of dementia, and other diseases. The caregivers were also matched in age, ensuring both groups were comparable.

The study found that participants in the telehealth group had average Medicare costs that were $526 lower than those in the usual care group. This reduction in costs suggests that the program has the potential to help lower healthcare expenses for individuals with dementia.

The Care Ecosystem program has been utilized by over 25 organizations, including health systems, since 2014. It is set to be available in July 2024 for individuals with dementia who reside at home or in assisted living communities. To be eligible, they must be covered by Medicare fee-for-service or have dual Medicare and Medicaid eligibility.

The program offers navigators who provide assistance with various aspects of dementia care, such as medication management, transportation, respite care, and daycare. The navigators are particularly beneficial for individuals with moderate-to-severe dementia and caregivers who are experiencing caregiver depression. By working with a navigator and their clinical team, considerable savings can be achieved by avoiding unnecessary visits to the emergency room.

Moreover, the program aims to support individuals who do not have a caregiver able to provide assistance. Navigators may assist in setting up a conservatorship or arranging long-term living placements if necessary. Previous research on the program has shown that it reduces the prevalence of caregiver depression from 13.4% to 7.9%.

In conclusion, the Care Ecosystem telehealth program demonstrates significant benefits for people with dementia, caregivers, and healthcare systems. By providing comprehensive support and assistance, it improves outcomes, reduces caregiver burden, and lowers Medicare costs. As the program becomes more widely available, it has the potential to positively impact the lives of individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

– Study published in JAMA Internal Medicine
– UCSF Department of Neurology

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