23 Mar Remote patient monitoring via smartphones- Apple and Android platforms
The promise of telemedicine has been around for years, with robotic surgeries, remote monitoring of patients and big city doctors able to care for rural patients over computer networks. But not until Apple IOS devices like iPhone and iPad as well as Android OS smartphones and tablets have been introduced, have we seen the true promise and convenience of what telemedicine can really be. Not on an emergency, expensive basis, but in a day-to-day, real-world kind of way.
Widespread use of remote monitoring over broadband networks, located in both institutions and homes, to track vital signs and metrics of patients with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure and diabetes is a critical and urgent development. Remote monitoring can spot health problems sooner, reduce hospitalization, improve life quality and save money. Adoption of remote monitoring technologies will be slowed and benefits reduced unless the United States does a better job of reimbursing health care organizations for remote care and encouraging continued investment in broadband infrastructure that can be tailored to meet privacy, security and reliability requirements for telemedicine applications.
Telemedicine can help those with chronic illnesses to lead normal work and personal lives and enable older Americans to remain in their own homes instead of moving to institutional settings. Remote monitoring technologies can transmit data on a regular, real time basis and prevent hospitalizations by identifying and treating problems by triggering adjustments in care before negative trends reach crisis stage. As a result, increase access to care is achived and hospitalizations can be averted.
However, success in translating potential savings into real savings depends in part on public policy decisions that speed the acceptance and penetration of remote monitoring. The realignment of reimbursement policy for telemedicine is among the most critical policy decisions that need to be made. Right now, like other preventive care, telemedicine is only covered to a limited extent and reimbursement is low. For example, remote consultations with physicians are reimbursed if they are conducted over two-way video. However, physicians are not reimbursed for examining remote monitoring data as a preventive measure. Right now, patients and insurers are capturing many of the quality improvements and cost savings from telemedicine, but paying for few of them. The costs are largely incurred by health care providers, but not fully reimbursed. This leaves little incentive to encourage optimal levels of investment and commitment to the provision of telemedicine infrastructure and services.
As someone interested in innovation in health care, I’m very much excited about technologies like Apple’s Facetime, a video calling protocol that can be used by iPhone 4 users. I see FaceTime as a catalyst for renewed interest in telehealth. This type of technology lowers the cultural barrier to telemedicine as well as increasing its use by the general public.
What makes FaceTime different from existing telemedicine applications? The first thing is that it is simple to use. All you need is a phone number/email address and an Internet connection. Dedicated hardware or need to go to a specialized room is bypassed. Privacy can be secured in a variety of locations instead one sanctioned spot in a facility.
Recently, I was privy to an FDA-cleared platform which allows patient information – including waveforms and other critical data from EMRs, bedside monitors and devices, pharmacy, lab, and other clinical information systems – to be securely and natively accessed by physicians and nurses on their smart phones or tablets…anytime, and anywhere. Airstrip Technologies has launched an exciting set of enterprise-wide solution that delivers waveforms (cardiac, SPO2, ventilator, arterial line, etc.), vital signs, medications, I&Os, lab results, allergy lists, and EMR data for patients in areas such as ICUs, CCUs, PACUs, Ors and EDs. Users can refer to current or historical results through the patient medical file by simply selecting the required results view.
Quite simply, we need integrated technology policies. We need policy incentives that ensure institutions and practitioners who invest in telemedicine are sufficiently compensated for the resulting improvements in both care and costs. Policies that bring broadband technologies into more homes will also help bring in remote monitoring, video visits with providers, and self-care education. Policies and advances in products that increase the public’s fluency with advanced communications technology will make telemedicine more effective and easier to implement. In addition to policies we needs investments in networks to increase capacity for live video and continuous monitoring. Smart communications policy also can expedite the adoption of remote monitoring and other telemedicine technologies.