One of the things that is exciting about modern telecommunications and IT is that many of the advances quickly scale up to big numbers – really big numbers – once a certain threshold is passed. The reasons are that costs are low and the services and applications often offer significant benefits to big groups of people.
The businesses can become giants once the industry reaches an “inflection point” – I put this in quotation marks because it is almost as overused a phrase as “paradigm shift” – because the technical tasks and costs are relatively simple once the structure is in place. Costs generally are low once the infrastructure is in place.
Home health care monitoring is a perfect example of all this. There is no downside to letting people leave the hospital if they are stable and can be monitored as effectively at home. The idea is even more compelling for people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes. People at home are happier and will make better progress. Folks with chronic conditions – who would be denied a hospital bed even without the home monitoring option -- will be more closely watched, since self-reporting will be reduced or eliminated. Hospital beds and related expenditures are cut.
Current technology makes home health care monitoring eminently doable, as they say. And it is happening. InformationWeek reports on two studies that point to the increase in use. IMS Research subsidiary InMedica found that users will increase from about 308,000 today to 1.8 million in 2017. The report, according to InformationWeek, suggests that home monitoring can be used in monitoring many common maladies and conditions:
Partly because of the effort to reduce readmissions, and also because of a strong evidence base, congestive heart failure is the condition for which telemonitoring is most often prescribed. However, the report pointed out that patients with respiratory conditions including COPD, diabetes, hypertension, and mental illnesses are also being monitored remotely.
The other study is from Berg Insight. The Swedish firm found that 2.8 million people used home-based remote monitoring gear last year. The difference in usage estimates between the two studies can be attributed in part to the fact that InMedica only was researching certain conditions. The vast size of the differential, however, suggests that the overall definition of remote health monitoring probably is different between the two organizations. In any case, both firms clearly recognize it as a big opportunity.
This is a big opportunity, and the wheels are turning. Earlier this month, Primary Partners and AMC Health announced a partnership. The plan calls for AMC to supplement Primary Partners’ patients with telemonitoring services. The agreement is important for the two companies, and also serves as a sign that a variety of companies recognize how big a business this can be.
That is not the only piece of news involving AMC. According to MedCity News, the company will be a supplier to a trial of a drug called Lisinopril that is aimed at controlling blood pressure in multiple sclerosis patients. The year-long trial, which also utilizes crowdsourcing, will use wearable remote monitors to collect the vital signs of the 180 participants.
Like other telecom services, the high-level picture for home health monitoring is bright: Once the pieces are in place, such services are modular and don’t require a constant reinvention of the wheel. At the same time, there is a huge segment of the population that would benefit. To use another tired phrase, remote health monitoring is a win-win.