Local firm creates data system to help Maryland nursing homes track Covid-19 outbreaks

December 1, 2022 | Written by: Matt Hooke, The Baltimore Business Journal

Originally published by the Baltimore Business Journal on December 1, 2022. 

Maryland has created a new data system to allow nursing homes to exchange information in order to help prevent outbreaks of diseases like Covid-19 and assist sick residents before they have to go to the hospital.

Linthicum Heights technology company Real Time Medical Systems is building the Nursing Facility Connectivity Program along with nonprofit Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP). Real Time Executive Chairman Scott Rifkin said the program helps nursing homes to analyze data about their patients using medical records from CRISP hospital data and internal data from nursing homes to track a variety of health metrics.

“We’re really automating what nursing homes wish they had enough staff to do every day, which is to read every chart and look for every issue,” Rifkin said.

A pilot program in Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County reduced hospital admissions by around 25% by giving nursing homes the tools needed to catch a disease before a patient becomes gravely ill. In Montgomery County, around 96 fewer patients from nursing homes had to be readmitted to hospitals 30 days after initial treatment in 2021, Rifkin said. Currently, 128 out of the over 200 nursing homes in Maryland have signed an agreement to join the Nursing Facility Connectivity Program. Rifkin hopes that eventually, every nursing home in the state will agree to share data.

The information helps nursing homes identify problems for individual patients, such as if a patient with a history of heart failure is gaining weight, or identify trends, like several residents in a home coming down with similar symptoms.

“We can pick up a pandemic, whether it’s Covid or the next pandemic, four or five days before the state would otherwise know about it,” Rifkin said.

Rifkin added that the program could help the state reduce its Medicare spending, which in turn could allow hospitals to hire more staff. Maryland is the only state with a Medicare waiver system, meaning hospitals have a fixed revenue budget that they cannot exceed. However, as a result, whatever amount they don’t spend on in-person admissions they can use toward other expenses.

CRISP is an independent nonprofit that is tasked with helping share health information between hospitals. For example, using CRISP, Mercy Medical Center can see a record for a patient who previously went to Johns Hopkins Hospital. CRISP CEO Craig Behm said the integration of the data CRISP collects from hospitals with the information from nursing homes can support better transitions for senior citizens going to and from the hospital and help nursing homes help residents after a hospital stay.

“Nursing homes were hit very hard [by the pandemic],” Behm said. “They did not get the incentives that many other providers got throughout the years to adopt technology and share data. They’re behind in this part of the field and they need a lot of help.”

Two laws passed in the last two years in the state legislature proved key to creating the new partnership. The state declared CRISP as a health data utility that required health care institutions to give more data to the nonprofit to help benefit public health. CRISP distributed statistics about the Covid-19 pandemic showing daily hospitalizations and other key data points throughout the pandemic.

The program will cost around $4 million in the first year to set up and the project will likely be funded mostly by federal Medicaid funding, Behm said. Real Time is working with CRISP after going through a request for proposals (RFP) process. The project is part of Real Time’s rapid growth over the past several years. Last year, Real Time raised $20 million in venture capital funding, led by Texas-based BASE Capital and Chevy Chase’s SunBridge Capital Management LLC. The company has expanded from having 200 customers two years ago to 2,200 companies today.

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