Survey reports promising outlook for remote health monitoring devices

While use of remote monitoring health care devices among consumers is limited at this time, many consumers are comfortable with mobile devices and receptive to physician guidance to utilize new technologies in the future, according to a white paper issued last week by HIMSS Analytics and sponsored by Qualcomm Life Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated.

The paper also provides feedback from senior IT executives at several healthcare organizations who indicated that use of remote monitoring devices in the home health arena is driven by an interest in enhancing patient care and improving caregiver efficiency.

The surveyed executives noted that use of remote monitoring devices was considered a strategic investment that could better position an organization to become an accountable care organization (ACO). The goal of an ACO is to improve health care on a variety of fronts, including higher quality care and an ability to participate in shared savings. Respondents added that the decision to use technology in the home health environment is often driven by an organization’s management team to increase access to data across an entire patient population so they can make more informed patient care and business decisions.

“Remote monitoring devices can provide enhanced access to information from patients with chronic conditions,” said John Hoyt, FACHE, FHIMSS, executive vice president, Healthcare Organizational Services, for HIMSS. “The availability of this type of data, when used correctly, can enhance patient care, potentially preventing more intensive therapies by identifying potential areas of concern early.”

The survey of 125 consumers indicates that while awareness of remote monitoring devices is noteworthy, usage of these devices by survey respondents is relatively low. When asked to identify barriers that need to be overcome for further technology adoption, respondents indicated high device price points, concerns about data privacy and security, and concern about making changes to caregiver relationships.

“There is clearly a significant opportunity to increase knowledge of the availability and capabilities of remote monitoring devices through education among health care professionals and patients alike,” said Anthony Shimkin, senior director of marketing for Qualcomm Life. “Unsurprisingly, the consumers surveyed were more willing to consider devices recommended by their caregivers, however few actually received any information about this technology from physicians. We expect that use of these devices will increase considerably in the future as physicians adopt the technology.”

The study defined remote monitoring devices as “devices worn by a person that transmits data into a database. An example might include a device you wear on your arm or wrist that measures blood pressure and heart rate while running.” Using this descriptor, the research, conducted in December 2011 and January 2012, explored the use of remote monitoring devices in hospitals, as well as potential interest in this type of technology among consumers.

Other findings included the following:

  • Approximately two-thirds of consumer respondents reported familiarity with the term remote monitoring device.
  • Consumers reported a moderate comfort level with the use of mobile devices for healthcare purposes, such as looking up healthcare information or e-mailing physicians.
  • Awareness of remote monitoring devices most often comes from friends or family members that have used this kind of device; only 16 percent of respondents noted that they had heard about these devices from their healthcare provider.
  • Only 22 percent of respondents reported they had used a remote monitoring device in the past. Eight percent of consumer respondents are now using a remote monitoring device as part of a fitness program.
  • While only five percent of respondents are using remote monitoring devices as prescribed by a physician, one quarter of respondents noted they would “absolutely use a device were it prescribed by a health care professional.”
  • More than half of the consumer respondents (59 percent) reported concerns about the privacy and security of patient data transmitted on a remote monitoring device.
  • While access to reliable wireless network connections is a key barrier to the successful use of remote monitoring devices, in general, patients are compliant with the remote monitoring technology provided to them despite initial concerns. In very few instances was it found that a device was taken away from a patient due to reported non-compliance.

In addition, the study concluded that training nurses and other care professionals is critical to ensuring that these professionals are comfortable introducing remote monitoring devices to their patients.

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