In a country where people can view information about their entertainment options, investments, and latest shipment in real time, we can no longer consider a 15-minute appointment once per year sufficient for monitoring our health. In the past, healthcare worked as a problem-solution activity. Patients generally didn’t see a doctor unless there was something wrong. That eventually transformed into adding a “routine check-up”, but that just isn’t enough, especially for those with chronic illnesses.
Healthcare is a lifelong process and everyone should have some sort of plan that includes at the very least, an idea of a healthy diet, exercise, supplements, etc. Thus, the topic has to be addressed more than a just once (or twice) a year. It should be continuous and optimally effortless. Home monitoring meets this need. The technology is more than ready and the demand for such services by patients, and especially their families, is certainly increasing.
There are two issues that seem to worry practitioners about monitoring their patients at home. The first is that of data overload and the second is the financial burden of introducing new and costly technology. Today’s doctors deal with an enormous amount of data and software companies still have room for improvement when designing focused user interfaces that don’t overload their computer screens. Financially, most systems and practices would likely be sluggish to implement yet another piece of technology into their organizations.
Data overload…or not?
Just like home security, home monitoring for healthcare is gearing up to utilize call centers. Alarms will send a signal to such centers, where personnel will decipher false alarms from real emergencies. In this way, physicians won’t experience the “alarm fatigue” (ignoring alarms because of the overwhelming amount of false positives) that usually occurs in hospital settings. If you’ve ever spent some time on a hospital floor, you have likely experienced the annoyance of meaningless alarms that seemed to do nothing but plague the nurses’ mental well-being. Ultimately, the end goal is to send a nice clear signal to the physician when help is truly needed.
Another Financial Burden for Health Systems and Physician Practices?
According to Medical Economics, companies are already beginning to prepare to offer monitoring services for chronic patients. The obstacle is money. Who is going to pay for this? The article explains that eventually health systems, physician practices, and payers should all share in these costs. Essentially, home monitoring is in place to prevent patients from getting so ill that they need to go straight to the emergency room, ultimately wasting thousands of dollars and days to weeks on care that could have been prevented.
Many organizations are taking the leap into such systems and are actually seeing a return on their investments. Centura Health at Home in Colorado saw a return nearly three and a half times larger than their investment in technology per patient. As predicted, the savings were generally from reduced hospital admissions by patients with chronic conditions. It’s only a matter of time until the majority of health systems begin the transition into continuous care via home monitoring.