In preparing my presentation this Friday at the Business of Medicine conference sponsored by the Mesa County (CO) Health Department, I came across this interesting study published last fall. In it, the researcher suggests that the implementation of remote monitoring on a widespread basis would save roughly $8 billion a year – almost $200 billion over 25 years. A significant number, but not the magic bullet that we could use.
The more interesting potential, I would suggest, would be in the efficiency of care for physicians. While it may not save the overall system a whole lot of money, remote monitoring may enable one physician to provide more careful and close up monitoring of chronic conditions. Reimbursement policies will eventually catch up, enabling physicians to earn income by capturing and interpreting the data sent by personal health devices, and consulting with the patient for follow up. The patient would have access to the same data, and would get a preliminary screening result, as monitoring equipment can call out results that suggest a follow up.
I can see a time when physicians would be paid for the reports that would come in every day. Since the data is coming in in an electronic format, data can be tracked over time. New research can look at periods of data and see if patterns emerge that have meaning for treatment decisions – such close analysis isn’t possible right now.
Remote monitoring, such as theSmart Medical Home at the University of Rocherster, will enable older people to live longer in their homes, reassured that if there was a problem, help could be called automatically. One system being developed senses a fall – the unit sits in the corner of a room and can detect the vibration pattern. There is a way to place a grid on a floor that can detect a fall or otherwise motionless person.
The baby boomers get old, and there are fewer people to care for this generation. Technology – already under research and development – offers promises to aid people to live at home, and for physicians to monitor patients more closely, take on the role of health advisor, and, armed with good data, provide valued and paying services.
I’m not suggesting Nirvana here, but I am suggesting that there is very interesting work going on that will have a major impact on what physicians do on a day to day bases.