Health Care Trends: The Future of Remote Monitoring
A new report finds the US health care system could reduce costs by nearly $200 billion during the next 25 years if remote monitoring tools were utilized much more widely. These conclusions come from Robert Litan, PhD, an economist who analyzed data from a remote monitoring program at the Veterans Administration, as well as other smaller programs, and extrapolated the findings to show how much money health care could save annually if the proper remote monitoring tools were used. We interview Litan in this issue.
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After years of steady single-digit growth, the cardiac rhythm management market was jump-started this decade by the expansion of implantable cardioverter defibrillators and the development of cardiac resynchronization therapy devices. Those products drove annual growth rates above 20%. But in 2005, this growth came to a screeching halt due to product recalls and other safety issues. To address these concerns, CRM manufacturers are working with the FDA and the Heart Rhythm Society to restore the trust of both implanting physicians and the patient community.
No company has done more to wrap its arms around the whole area of patient monitoring--both in and out of the hospital--than Philips Medical Systems. Since early 2006, Philips has made at least seven acquisitions that have helped it create the infrastructure for a telehealth approach to disease management, including monitoring equipment, IT, and emergency response services. To close out 2007, Philips announced an additional acquisition: a $5.1 billion all-cash offer for respiratory therapy provider Respironics, to buy the leading company in a universe of only three independent companies focused on obstructive sleep apnea, the fastest growing market in home health monitoring.
Remote patient monitoring technologies, have, for years held the promise that they would improve health care by providing physicians with data that would help them intervene and maintain the health of groups of patients who are otherwise prone to exacerbations of illness that land them in the hospital from time to time. In particular, health care constituencies have been looking to telemonitoring to solve problems of chronic illnesses. The premise is that the information gleaned from remote monitoring devices can help keep the chronically ill out of the most expensive care settings like the emergency room. But the remote patient management markets have been slow to materialize for several reasons, not the least of which is lack of reimbursement. For in chronic illnesses, remote patient monitoring technologies become tools of a disease management framework, with all of the uncertainties around the economics and business models of disease management.