Remote Health Monitoring

Robin Strongin at the Disruptive Women in Health Care site has an interesting article on the remote delivery of health services:

[T]he United States could cut $197 billion from its health care bill over the next 25 years by the widespread use of remote monitoring to track the vital signs of patients with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure and diabetes.

But, and here’s the catch: [economist] Dr. [Robert] Litan warned that adoption of remote monitoring and other telemedicine opportunities 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 the privacy, security, and reliability requirements for telemedicine applications.

This sounds very promising.  While no technology can replace a proper face-to-face history and physical, much of what constitutes medical care for chronic diseases is information management (e.g. vital sign readings, lab test results, et cetera) that do not necessarily require an office visit.  It’s nice that reimbursement is acknowledged in the article.  A lot of what I read about improving communication between physicians and patients using technology (e.g. e-mail) seems to ignore that such communication requires an investment of the physician’s time.  That’s time taken away from reimbursed patient care activities like office visits.  Practitioners and health organizations that use technology to improve the efficiency of patient care should be rewarded, not penalized. 

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