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USD partners with Minneapolis company on health technology

A unique collaboration between private business and the public sector is giving business and health care leaders in South Dakota insight into how connected health technology could positively influence health outcomes and reduce spending across the state.

The partnership between the University of South Dakota (USD) Beacom School of Business, the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and Health Factors, a private company that develops and implements connected health programs and solutions that drive better health care outcomes and lower costs, focused on what the impact would be of using at-home monitoring for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and congestive heart failure (CHF) who are at risk for complications that could lead to hospitalization.

The cost of treating COPD in the United States in 2010 was estimated at approximately $50 billion, with $20 billion coming from indirect costs and $30 billion from direct health care expenses. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 11 million people are living with COPD in the United States, where it is the third-leading cause of death.

Attracting biotechnology and health care companies to the state is a primary focus for the GOED, which is supporting the project through the proof of concept program. Health Factors and the Beacom School of Business are analyzing claims data from the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) to determine how actual hospital costs would have been affected if the point of hospital admittance was delayed through the use of at-home monitoring. The results will be used to determine the viability of a business based in South Dakota that would provide at-home monitoring services to reduce health care costs.

“Chronic conditions are a primary driver of health care costs,” said Dan Spors, chief commercial officer, Health Factors. “This partnership is helping to quantify the impact that connected health technology and at-home monitoring can have on quality of care and the patient experience, while improving care management efforts and reducing costs.”

Through the claims analysis, Health Factors and Beacom School of Business identified several points in the care continuum where at-home monitoring could have a positive impact on patients with elevated risk. Data from SDAHO showed that 65 percent of the statewide hospitalization costs from COPD stemmed from more severe hospitalizations, which typically cost over $25,000, potentially exceeding $60,000, per stay. The COPD Foundation estimates that 40 percent of costs associated with COPD could be avoided by preventing complications and hospitalizations.

The models developed by Health Factors focus on achieving a 20 percent cost savings for South Dakota by implementing at-home monitoring that fosters earlier interventions and less-costly admissions or readmissions. Findings from the analysis will be used to identify and develop ways in which technology can connect patients to the care system throughout their health care journey, which supports early interventions that can reduce the need for hospitalization, improve quality of life for patients and save money for all involved.

Mandie Weinandt, instructor of economics and decision sciences and coordinator for the MBA program at the Beacom School of Business, said the college began partnering with businesses earlier this year as a way to add value to the on-campus student experience. Health Factors is the most recent business with which the Beacom School of Business has partnered.

“By adding consulting projects to the capstone course of our MBA program in strategic management, we’ve made the on-campus experience more valuable for students,” Weinandt said. “Completing strategic consulting projects adds immediate, real-world application to the student experience. The connections our students make while working on these projects are invaluable to their future success.”

Graduate students Chris Marlow and Alex Haverly worked with experts at Health Factors to conduct the data analysis, which culminated in a report that is being delivered to the GOED.

“The project is an excellent example of how South Dakota is working to grow the state’s economy through a successful start-up business, while also improving health care and reducing costs for all South Dakotans,” said GOED Commissioner Scott Stern.

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Health Factors is a privately owned, connected health company that closes the gaps between health care stakeholders and creates a seamless experience for patients, caregivers, providers, payers and life sciences companies. Health Factors’ technology, service and real-world evidence models allow organizations to implement programs that close the gaps between health care stakeholders, while generating real-world evidence that helps manufacturers reach or expand market access.