Healthcare Pushes into Big Data with Remote Patient Monitoring
Is your facility ready for remote patient monitoring?
If not, you may soon become a minority. We’re living in the era of Big Data, where everyone –
from a Fortune 500 CEO to the trainer at your local gym — is chanting, “What gets measured, gets improved.” And measuring whether patients improve means collecting data about them, not just getting subjective answers to doctors who ask how they’re feeling.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) emphasizes the idea of keeping patients healthy. In fact, it’s based on the concept of saving money by reducing repeat hospital admissions. For chronic care patients, remote monitoring ensures a continuous feedback loop that could nip incipient problems in the bud — before more extensive (and expensive) solutions become necessary. At least, that’s the theory. Many believe that, under the new law, hospitals will be held accountable for keeping patients healthy and reducing repeat or extended hospital stays.
A recent FCC report said that remote monitoring, also known as telehealth, could save the government as much as $700 Billion in healthcare costs over the next 15 – 25 years. In the meantime, it’s becoming a big business. A new report from GBI Research predicts that by 2019, the remote patient monitoring market in the U.S. will reach $296.5 million, up from $104.5 million in 2012.
With remote monitoring, patients can get reminders, perform simple tests at home, and send the results to their doctor right away on a mobile device. The provider stores the information in a relational data base, which makes it easier to spot trends or predict complications. Monitoring may include sensors that measure heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, weight, activity, and other health indicators.
Most of the technology consists of devices that patients wear — a heart monitor strapped to the chest, or a device to measure ECG, respiration, and other vital signs strapped to the wrist, with sensors on the chest and arms. But there’s also a “sensor mat”; a device placed under a mattress that measures heart rate, breathing, and sleep patterns without requiring any sensors or attachments to the patient. Motion sensors can also be used for elderly patients to keep track of toilet flushing, pill taking, or falls.
This new technology has also fostered videoconferencing apps, which connect patients to their doctors. While remote monitoring is a useful tool, and especially vital in rural areas, concerns about this new technology remain. The FDA hasn’t approved all of the cool new gadgets doctors and their patients are using today. Uploading and integrating data can be tricky because different types of providers—doctors, hospitals, insurance companies—use different systems.
And many people have privacy concerns. Some of the new apps patients use for monitoring may not be covered by federal privacy laws. And even if they are, some patients and doctors may be reluctant to adopt them. The more data that comes in from different sources, the greater the risk that data could be hacked.
These concerns could fade if the new technology provides the desired outcome of better predicting and preventing health problems. To reach that benchmark, healthcare providers need to learn a lot more about integrating and managing remote data and analyzing it in meaningful ways.
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