An Apple (or Google) a day keeps the doctor away

Remote Monitoring, Self-Care, and the Rise of Telemedicine

Ian Marks
VP R&D Innovation

Though Big Data has enabled scientists to monitor and treat health issues at the population level, strides in the utility of mobile health platforms and the precision of artificial intelligence is enabling healthcare to take a more granular, patient-centric approach.

With the Becker Hospital Review reporting that the U.S. will face a shortage of somewhere between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030, a transition towards remote care powered by telehealth applications is gradually unfolding. With nearly 75% of Americans willing to attend a telemedicine appointment via video and 60% of physicians willing to hold those appointments, 2018 will see over 7 million telehealth users, up from just 350,000 users in 2013.

In particular, millennials appear to be most interested generation in this type of treatment, according to a 2016 Deloitte Survey of US Health Care Consumers. Despite the screen generation facing higher rates of sleep deprivation, obesity, eye-straining and spinal damage due to posture as a result of a digital childhood, millennials are championing this technology thanks to their familiarity with these tools and the general ease-of-use in having a ‘doctor in your pocket’ as opposed to visiting one physically.

Data sourced from Deloitte Insights ‘Will patients and caregivers embrace technology-enabled health care?’ by Leslie Korenda, Claire Boozer Cruse and Greg Reh.

The Center for Connected Health Policy broadly defines telehealth not as a specific service, rather a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery. As such, there are four primary categories for telehealth use today: live video-conferencing, store-and-forward or asynchronous video, remote patient monitoring (RPM) and mobile health applications.

Categories are to be used depending on the context of the health issue. Below is a breakdown of the number of mHealth apps on the market in terms of their application and the issue they address.

Data sourced from HealthPopuli ‘The Digital Health Gap For High-Cost, High-Need Patients’ by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn.

 

“Telehealth technologies can increase access to care, improve quality, decrease costs and gain the most efficient use of the skills of health care professionals… Second-opinion services, emergency department express care, virtual intensive care units (ICUs), telestroke with mobile stroke units, telepsychiatry and remote services for postacute care are some examples” reads a new Journal of American Medical Association report. 

“Early telehealth focused on minor ailments such as coughs, colds and rashes, but now telehealth is being used in broader applications, such as communicating imaging and laboratory results, changing medication, and most significantly managing more complex chronic disease.”

A recent Deloitte case study reports that remote patient monitoring (RPM) might save the U.S. nearly $200billion across all conditions over the next 25 years. Furthermore, the development of RPM technology is estimated to reduce elder care costs by 25%.

As the technology continuously challenges healthcare customs, new startups are emerging to tackle a variety of addressable issues. Here are some examples of applications either in development or already on the market:

Meet the Players:

VitalConnect has recently secured over eighty million dollars in funding to transform RPM and self-care by offering a non-wired, disposable wearable device that allows both in-hospital and outside patients to provide biometric readings to caregivers.

Researchers in South Korea have been testing a customized contact lens that uses the patient’s tears to measure their glucose levels. Though the technology is a long way from reaching consumers, it shows promise in empowering diabetic patients to better manage their care regimens by using connected smart contacts to put their glucose monitoring on autopilot. 

For hospitals, the Genesis Touch device by Honeywell collects biometrics from patients to remotely located providers, and transmits them to a patient management dashboard. The device can host video visits, allow multiple providers access to a patient’s vitals, and can integrate with an oximeter, blood pressure monitor, and precision health scale.

Back at home, MDLive is a mobile app option that connects you with qualified doctors and physicians for common but sometimes troubled needs that can’t wait. MDLive operates 24/7 and charges by the call. They can identify nonemergency diseases and even gave a prescription.

According to a recent Berg Insight report, the fastest-growing market segments for RPM include glucose and air flow monitoring. Interestingly, A NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey of 340 clinicians and healthcare executives found remote monitoring using wireless devices or wearables (56 percent) was the least effective method of patient engagement followed by insurer-based incentives (53 percent).

Though telehealth is still young and requires further testing to bring on its full potential, its efficacy is evident, as is its necessity moving forward.

Telehealth by the Numbers:

Becker Hospital Review:

Deloitte:

  • Millennials are 7% to 22% more likely to use mHealth apps than older generations
  • RPM might save the U.S. nearly $200billion across all conditions over the next 25 years.
  • The development of RPM technology is estimated to reduce elder care costs by 25%.

California Telehealth Resource Center:

  • Home monitoring of chronic diseases is reducing hospital visits by as much as 50% by keeping patients stable through daily monitoring.
  • The national average for re-admission to hospitals within 30 days following a heart failure episode is 20%. Telehealth monitoring programs have reduced that level to less than 4%.
  • Timely provision of treatments that effectively reverse the consequences of a stroke have risen from 15% to 85% due to the availability of telestroke programs.
  • Telehealth support to Intensive Care Units (often called eICUs) is reducing mortality rates by 15–30% and substantially reducing complications and length of stay.

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