Long Distance Dedication: Remote Health Monitoring

Published: Monday, Apr 16, 2007
Information technology plays an important role in many aspects of our society and is an emerging force in the healthcare industry. One area of health IT that shows great promise is remote health monitoring, which during the past 10 years has risen from humble beginnings to become a significant player in healthcare.

OncNG spoke with Joseph Kvedar, MD, director of the Center for Connected Health in Boston, MA, who explained that “remote health monitoring involves the use of sensor technologies, primarily to gather physiologic information about patients that allows care providers, as well as patients, to make decisions about the care without actually being in the same room.”

Remote health monitoring is designed to help empower patients in becoming more actively involved with their personal health management. Patients with a chronic illness, such as diabetes, asthma, or chronic heart failure, need to be motivated to follow management plans and make necessary lifestyle modifications in order to minimize the chances that they’ll develop additional complications that could further jeopardize their health, thus requiring expensive treatment. The feedback provided by constant monitoring can help reinforce adherence and good health practices. Researchers in remote health monitoring have even found that patients who use the technology make fewer unnecessary doctor visits and are less likely to require hospitalization. Remote health monitoring can also help reduce healthcare costs. “If an organization plans patient visits every three days at a cost of $100 per visit, for example, over a 60-day period, the cost is $2,000 for 20 visits." Mark VanderWerf, president of American Medical Development (AMD) Telemedicine, said that incorporating remote health monitoring into such a patient’s care may mean that patient “might only visit [the doctor’s office] seven to nine times in the 60-day period, so for each 60 days, you save in excess of $1,000.”

Remote health monitoring systems also provide tools for patients that enable them to learn about and understand their illness, so they can walk into a doctor’s office feeling more confident. Companies like Health Hero Network, Inc., Medtronic, Inc., and iMetrikus, Inc. have worked hard to incorporate educational modules into their products as a way to encourage self-management. OncNG spoke about the advantages of incorporating remote health monitoring tools into patient care with R. William Vandivier, MD, clinical director of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Center at the University of Colorado Hospital. “I think ultimately they [the patients] get better care,” he said.

Hey, Buddy!

Self-management and education are essential parts of the treatment plan for patients who have a chronic illness, according to Health Hero Network, Inc., which has incorporated tools into its monitoring systems to enable patients to take a more active role in their own care. The Health Buddy System®, a user-friendly four-button device with a large screen, is the company’s flagship program. It “integrates home health monitoring technology with clinical information databases, Internet-enabled decision support tools, health management programs, and content development tools.” With the ability to support 130 programs—10 with National Committee for Quality Assurance certification—that remotely monitor 30 different conditions (eg, cardiovascular, endocrine, psychiatry), the Health Buddy can be used by practitioners in just about any medical specialty. Its educational content “can be combined into programs that address a single disease state or comorbid conditions or even trimorbid conditions,” says Suneel Ratan, Vice President of Business Development at Health Hero. “That’s the first degree of personalization for the patient—it’s personalized to their condition.”

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