Telemedicine Solves the Aging Crisis?

As the baby boomers reach their retirement years and beyond, the need for in-home health monitoring will become more important. Yet, US patients are reluctant to pay out-of-pocket for such personal...

As the baby boomers reach their retirement years and beyond, the need for in-home health monitoring will become more important. Yet, US patients are reluctant to pay out-of-pocket for such personal care, naturally.

In fact, results from a poll of baby boomers conducted last year indicate that although one in five respondents saw the value of in-home health monitoring valuable, approximately 60% are opposed to spending extra money toward that kind of personalized care. How can reluctant patients and provides be convinced of the potential benefits from telemedicine’s personal attention? Reimbursement is one way. Should physicians be reimbursed for remotely monitoring patients with chronic diseases if such care helps to reduce the high cost of healthcare taken on by their patients? “It is essential that public and private sector leaders who can influence healthcare payment policy recognize the potential for remote monitoring and telehomecare to improve care and efficiently manage resources for an aging population, as well as for patients living with chronic diseases,” says Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of AdvaMed.

Senses in Motion

MDNG covered the topic of telemedicine previously with “Telemedicine: Seeing the Future Today”, reporting on a telemedicine clinic for children with special needs, adopted as part of the regular clinical venue at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (http://www.uihealthcare.com) and participating schools. In it, author Jonathan D. Linkous, Executive Director, American Telemedicine Association (ATA), revealed the many benefits of remote monitoring with regard to patient health, and even with continuing medical education (CME) activities.

Just what is telemedicine exactly? According to the ATA’s definition, telemedicine “may include sending medical images to a specialist for interpretation, a live two-way video consult between patient and provider, or capturing and sending data from vital sign monitoring devices and incorporating all of these into electronic medical records [EMRs].”

Telemedicine systems have the capability to track a variety of health activities, trends, and vital signs, including:

• Blood pressure

• Heart rate

• Temperature

• Oxygen saturation

• Weight gain/loss

• Medication intake

Ill or bedridden patients can benefit from high-tech systems that sense motion and vital signs—attributed to restlessness during sleep—even determining urinary frequency and urgency.

According to a series of case studies reported in the Miami Herald last week, telemedicine is catching on, despite its financial hang-ups. A report released by AdvaMed last month also touts the “vital role” telemedicine can play in managing costly and debilitating chronic diseases .

What’s in a Name?

QuietCare is an example of a remote health monitoring system that tracks the activities of patients and alerts caregivers in case of “an important change in behavior” via e-mail notification and/or phone alerts by QuietCare emergency response operators. Think of it as OnStar for patients.

MedSignals is another portable version that “holds four drugs in separate, programmable compartments, each with its own associated signals.” Included among the many features of the device are voice announcements that repeat how many pills to take and associated warnings; a flashing LED indicating the number of pills to take; and text that appears on the screen, indicating how many pills to take and what instructions, if any, to heed.

Now that reimbursement comes a lot easier, for your patients’ peace of mind, telemedicine may be just what the doctor ordered.