Just as in every other commercial sector, technological innovations are fundamentally changing the landscape of the healthcare delivery systems. “Patients” are becoming “consumers” who no longer acquiesce passively to traditional healthcare solutions. For providers, evolving regulations are increasingly measuring outcomes, not visits, as the primary trigger for compensation. And most significantly, technological advances are remodeling the relationship between patient and provider.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and Healthcare
The Internet of Things is one of the biggest health industry disruptors. With IoT, medical devices can be embedded with the ability to collect and exchange data. Pair that data with related mobile apps, and the result is better patient care, lower costs, and a better quality of life for the patient.
One example is the wireless heart monitoring sensor currently in use at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. More than five million Americans suffer from heart failure, and around 600,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. As such, hospital costs for treating the condition are immense. Doctors at Providence have reduced costs considerably by managing these cardiac cases with the help of heart monitors non-surgically implanted in the pulmonary arteries of patients. The embedded sensor constantly monitors artery pressure which, when elevated, is a sign of declining heart function. The technology sends daily reports to the cardiologist, contributing real-time data to the patient’s medical record.
The patients receive the best benefits. The monitor allows them to stay comfortably at home rather than be hospitalized, and the monitor’s continuous feedback reduces the need for checkups. Pressure-change alerts notify providers of changes faster than the patient can, so remedial care can begin sooner, too.
Data from 2014 revealed that the use of the technology has reduced hospital admissions (and consequent costs) for heart failure by 37 percent. Because they have no batteries to replace, each monitor is designed to last for the life of the patient, another cost and life-saving feature.
Mobility Empowers Patient Care
The U.S. Veteran’s Administration (VA) began a telemedicine pilot program in 2003 with 2,000 veterans. With year-over-year growth, it now serves 150,000-plus remotely monitored patients with some form of chronic disease.
Looking at demographics, 70 percent of veterans live in very rural or semi-rural areas, making their access to healthcare difficult. As of late, the VA has had difficulty seeing the growing number of new patients within an acceptable timeframe. That said, the VA reports that 90 percent of patients offered the telehealth option take it.
Using a mobile app and device, VA health professionals converse live with patients to gather information, share test results, and provide other relevant support. The benefits of VA’s telemedicine program are many:
- Mobility eliminates the need for the patient to travel to the facility – saving the veteran both time and money.
- Patient satisfaction with mobile telemedicine services is 86 percent.
- Cost avoidance for the VA comes from fewer emergency department visits, hospital admissions and in-patient days – on average, the $1,600 annual cost per patient for telemedicine care saved $6,500.
In fact, these results have been so impressive that the United Kingdom’s National Health System specifically cites the VA’s work as their guiding example as they address the same challenges.
Next, the VA is looking at enabling clinicians to use mobile devices within VA facilities, creating an app store for both doctors and patients to download apps, and providing cloud-based services for clinician collaboration.
What’s next in healthcare with IoT and mobile? The options seem boundless – but it would be great to hear your thoughts!