Magazine Article | April 2, 2012

Remote Patient Monitoring - There Will Be An App For That

By Vicki Amendola, Editor, Health IT Outcomes

 

In the United States we are facing a massive convergence of factors, including tumultuous healthcare reform, rising healthcare costs, and a growing population of aging patients suffering from chronic conditions.  Couple this with the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) prediction that America could be facing a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors to care for these patients and we should see a big red flag forcing us to think outside the box as to how we care for and connect patients to providers. Increased use of remote patient monitoring would be a great start, but we can’t stop there.
 
Remote patient monitoring has the potential to change the shape of healthcare delivery, especially in chronic disease management. Using devices such as remote blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, and cardiac monitors can assist physicians in measuring the effectiveness of treatment, reduce the frequency of required checkups, or even prevent hospitalization. A handful of today’s modern monitoring devices can even provide early detection of critical emergent events, such as heart failure or diabetic emergencies, and alert medical personnel of the occurrence. 
 
The good news is that remote patient monitoring is on the rise. According to a recent report from healthcare market research publisher Kalorama, the market for remote and wireless patient monitoring is set to grow at a rate of about 26% each year through 2014. For patients this means more access to alternative care options. But what does it mean for providers? Well, there is good news there as well. A 2011 report from Juniper Research estimates that by 2014, healthcare providers stand to save between $1.96 billion and $5.83 billion in healthcare costs, thanks to remote patient monitoring over cellular networks. 
Could the smartphone represent the next wave in remote patient monitoring? I think so. The same research group that estimates huge savings for providers, Juniper Research, projects that 3 million patients worldwide will be using remote monitoring devices that use a smartphone as a hub to transmit information by 2016. But beyond actual remote monitoring devices, several research reports indicate an increasing desire and tendency on the part of patients to access patient data. 
 
Recently, Joseph Cafazzo, Ph.D. and Professional Engineer, University Health Network, conducted a study that analyzed smartphone-enabled remote monitoring with diabetes and hypertension patients. Cafazzo’s theory is that arming patients with a combination of smartphone and remote monitoring is the key to success.  The research in his report seems to support that theory. In both studies, the patients in the remote-monitored groups showed more improvement and reported better quality of life than those in the physician-monitored control group. 
 
What do remote monitoring devices and smartphone adoption have in common? Plenty. Patients requesting to have more access to and control of their health information indicates willingness for patients to play a greater role in their own health and a desire to understand more about their overall health. But I think Cafazzo said it best in his recent article, Can Patients Improve Their Own Health? “Faced with a life-threatening chronic illness, I see patients looking to take control of their condition, rather than recoil in despair,” says Cafazzo. “I feel as healthcare providers, we are no way near tapping this unrealized potential. It’s time we act to take advantage of it.” 
 
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