As care models evolve to bring in more active patient participation, technology will play a major role in collecting data and making it available to physicians. Along these lines, telemedicine applications are growing rapidly.
Alex Brisbourne, president and COO of KORE Telematics, a wireless network provider, recently outlined the top five health conditions ripe for treatment – or already being treated – via telemedicine.
1. Active heart monitoring. For at-risk patients, wireless heart monitoring devices have already proven to reduce hospitalization through early detection of heart failure. In addition, these devices are able to limit the time that physicians spend looking at data that is not pertinent, Brisbourne explained, since they only send notifications with information that is outside an acceptable range.
2. Blood pressure. Wireless sensor nodes have become cost-effective, compact and energy-efficient, which allows for continuous cycle reporting and electronic dispatch in urgent situations. It is important, however, to distinguish in this category between "critical monitoring" and "convenience monitoring." The former is able to account for stress, eating habits and other external triggers more completely and pinpoint life-or-death issues. The latter includes iPhone apps for the merely curious consumer.
3. Diabetes . Wireless glucose monitoring devices can send alerts to patients and doctors when values move outside an acceptable range. These devices can also monitor for dietary intake that would affect a patient's course of action.
4. Prescription compliance . Patient health risks – and the risk of hospital admission – are greatly reduced by eliminating missed medications. But there's also a need to ensure that people take entire drug courses and eliminate the potential for re-prescribing, said Brisbourne. Billions of dollars each year are wasted on drugs that reach their expiration date in patients' medicine cabinets, he noted. Additional intangible benefits include fewer provider phone calls and fewer visits to doctor's offices for issues tied to improper prescription drug use.
5. Sleep apnea. Telemedicine devices for sleep apnea can handle both investigatory and direct treatment. The two-way nature of the devices can report on sleep patterns, body position and breathing to refine research and treatment course for any given patient. There's a direct cost saving here as well, said Brisbourne, as the devices eliminate the need for expensive polysomnography exams and limit the need for overnight hospital stays.