As mobile health, or mHealth, continues to grow in health care, so does wireless monitoring. This type of care could be a key player for patients in two areas: Reducing hospital visits and subsequently costs, according to a New York Times article.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are helping spearhead this technology, producing a sensor prototype called “Epidermal electronics.” The goal is to monitor vital signs with small sensors that attach to a patient’s skin.
Wireless sensors are not a new development, as Corventis, a San Jose, Calif.-based medical device company, marketed a sensor — which was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration — to detect arrhythmias by adhering it to a user’s chest. From there, the sensor sends an electrocardiogram to a transmitter, which then sends it to a monitoring center. This could go a long way in home monitoring, which in turn keeps patients out of the hospital bed.
Fewer hospital visits is what ultimately saves patients money. To help demonstrate this point, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) studied patients with serious health conditions from 2003-2007. Some patients enrolled in a home telehealth program and were given biometric devices to monitor their vital signs. Researchers found that there was a 25% drop in days they spent in hospital beds. What’s more, there was a 19% decrease in overall hospital admissions.
The VA also found that the average cost for a patient in the monitoring program was $1,600 a year. That price is significantly lower than the $13,121 spent by the VA to treat patients at home without telehealth devices. Evidently, patients who used the monitoring devices in the telehealth program saved more money than those who needed primary care at home minus telehealth technology.
Widespread adoption of wireless monitoring devices is thorny given the current fee-for-service model of health care reimbursement. That poses a concern for providers and hospitals since it’s difficult to receive money from this method.