There is virtually universal agreement that the rise in U.S. health care costs is unsustainable; on the other hand, there is practically no agreement on how to contain these costs.
As we age, medical expenses, doctors’ office visits, prescription drugs and hospital/rehab stays increase from either sudden illnesses, accidents or chronic diseases. Many will agree that the Baby Boomer cohort (born between 1946 and 1964 and 78 million strong!!) is the most logical place to start to dramatically cut healthcare costs.
Fortunately, the Baby Boomer market (at least the younger segment) for tech-enabled healthcare products embraces these devices as a cost-effective solution to the single most critical issue to individuals as they age: to maintain control of their lives and their independence. An important benefit of the widespread adoption of at-home, self-care medical devices is the easing of the overburdened U.S. healthcare system, as seniors are able to age in place longer.
The size of the potential market for remote (home) patient monitoring devices has resulted in the rapid growth of medical device/equipment manufacturers who are finding ways to deliver quality care to the aging population through lower-cost, technology-enabled products.
Is Passive Wireless Home Health Monitoring the Wave of the Future?
Robin Felder, Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry at the University of Virginia would answer a resounding “Yes.” Felder cites a 2007 paper published in the Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health that shows a 74% reduction in the cost of caring for patients in assisted living with the use of passive monitoring devices. Most notably, with the use of passive devices, the rate of urinary tract infections in the study group dropped to nearly zero.
Felder conducts research in medical automation, robotics and process improvement in clinical laboratories. The concept of passive patient monitoring devices means the patient doesn’t have to think about the device to use it.
As a speaker at the February 2011 Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, Felder claimed that 95% of home blood-pressure monitors eventually wind up in the drawer because patients have to go out of their way to use them. In the near future, Felder expects to see clothing embedded with sensors as well as built-in sensors in common bathroom fixtures to measure weight, body temperature and other vitals. The data would be transmitted to web-based applications for aggregation and interpretation.
Also available from pharmaceutical companies is a digestible chip placed in a pill to measure whether the drug was taken, monitor the stomach pH and other vitals – transmitting the data to a cell phone via Bluetooth. Contact lenses have also been developed with sensors that measure glucose levels in the tears of diabetic patients. Many of these sensors add just pennies to an existing product.
When given the choice, it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. That’s why Felder believes that only passive patient monitoring devices can be an effective solution.