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Remote Monitoring Yields Healthier Patients

Nursing service uses wireless devices to monitor homebound patients and get data to doctors faster, reducing hospitalizations by more than 50%.
The range of uses for personal medical technologies is broader than just monitoring the chronically ill, said Chuck Parker, executive director at Continua Health Alliance, a non-profit group focused on developing interoperability guidelines and certification programs for personal health products. Personal health devices can help elderly people stay in their own homes. Sensors send alerts if a senior fails to get out of bed or falls. Other types of devices improve strength training of healthy people.

Devices certified by Continua cover several areas of "e-care," or "connected health," the terms preferred for describing remote healthcare, versus the older term, "telehealth," which connotes doctors conferring about patients through video conferencing, said Parker. E-care and connected health are both associated with "patient-centered" technology-assisted remote medicine aided, he said.

Parker, too, notes that providers need to be reimbursed for using these devices. "Reimbursements drive behavior," he said. The U.S. House of Representatives' healthcare reform bill includes provisions for reimbursing healthcare providers that participate e-care and connected health programs, he said. "The debate has taken off," he added.

The use of personal health devices will grow as more electronic health record systems incorporate and use that data. "Interfaces can be written for anything," said Bayada's Farber, including feeding the remote monitoring data into EHR systems. However many doctors don't want one more flood of information to monitor, he said.

EHRs will need to have intelligence built in to send alerts when something is off, said Parker. Personal health devices provide data, he said, and "EHRs are still coming to grips with that." Less than half of e-health record systems have the capability to work with personal health data, he said, but many have it on their road maps. And when providers start using that next generation of EHRs, remote monitoring will take off in a much bigger way.

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