AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Knowledge: Can Too Much Be Just As Dangerous As Too Little

What does the “world’s first evidence-based mobile resilience program”, a 21-day personalized program to help wearers manage their stress and build mental resilience, and the “Shimmer3”, a slim-line sensor that can be strapped to an athlete’s arm in training to provide coaches with biophysical data, have in common? These are just two of the many hundreds new wearable electronic monitoring devices entering the crowded medical application market. Wearable monitoring devices are not new as healthcare providers have been utilizing devices to collect data on patients suffering from chronic diseases such as cardiac disease and diabetes.

To spur innovation, last year Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of the chip maker Qualcomm and a big sponsor of wireless healthcare technology, announced a $10m prize for a Star Trek-style “tricorder” to be awarded to the first developer to succeed in designing a mobile platform capable of diagnosing a set of 15 conditions, including pneumonia, diabetes and sleep apnea, without recourse to a doctor or nurse. Don Jones, vice-president of Qualcomm Life, says, “Think of every way you have ever interacted with a medical professional or someone in a clinical setting – a doctor, a nurse, or your corner pharmacist – then think how that can be replicated digitally so that the process is both more convenient and faster,” he says. “The odds are that someone in Silicon Valley is already working on it.”

You can find high-tech wearable gadgets around the wrist, ankles and chests of just about every tech savvy enthusiast, leading some to champion their appearance as a means of keeping us all more in tune with our own health. Others are expressing cautious concern on how data is being interpreted by the less medically trained among us. What do we lose when healthcare becomes nothing more than a stream of digitalized physiological outputs, parsed and quantified by algorithms without the interpretation of experienced medical providers? The rise of digital medicine will have significant impact on the health and welfare of patients with the manner in which it is utilized determining whether this will be for better or for worse.

“Advancements in telemedicine allow us to provide acute stroke care quickly and efficiently, in situations where seconds matter,” comments Dr. James Kiely, partner, AcuteCare Telemedicine. “As technology reaches another inflection point with consumers, it’s important to educate users that data is more valuable in the hands of a board-certified medical practitioner.”



Mobile Healthcare and Monitoring on the Brink of Revolution

Wireless in-home health monitoring is expected to increase six-fold in the next four years. A recent study by InMedica indicates that 308,000 patients were remotely monitored by their healthcare provider for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension, and mental health conditions worldwide in 2012. While congestive heart failure accounts for the majority of remote monitoring, it is expected that diabetes will supplant COPD with the second largest share of telehealth patients by 2017.  It is predicted that more than 1.8 million people worldwide will utilize mobile monitoring in the next four years.

Telemedicine is seen as a significant tool among healthcare providers for reducing hospital readmission rates, track patients chronic disease progression or provide advanced specialized medical treatment to patients in remote areas.  Four main factors are driving the demand for increased use of telemedicine and telehealth; Federal Readmission penalties introduced by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS);  healthcare providers desires to increase ties to patients and improve quality of care; insurance providers who are looking to increase their competitiveness and reduce in-patient pay-outs by working directly with telehealth suppliers to monitor their patient base; and an anticipation for future increased demand for telehealth services by patients.

Of the billions of dollars spent on health care each year, 75% to 80% of it goes for patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.  With rising costs and the anticipated shortage of physicians and healthcare providers over the next decade, utilizing the telemedicine technologies is becoming increasingly important to the routine delivery of medical services and monitoring of chronic diseases.

Even telepsychiatry, the use of secure Web-based video conferencing technology, and ambulatory patients, those who have been diagnosed with a disease at an ambulatory care facility but have not been hospitalized are expected to experience significant increased utilization of telemedicine among healthcare professionals in the next four years.  A plethora of emerging mobile technology, such as wearable wireless monitors to smartphone attachments will offer consumers the ability to track everything from core vital signs to impending heart attacks by discovering problems with heart tissue are on the horizon, offering a revolution in digital medical technology.

Speaking to those resisting the new mobile technology, Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, recently encouraged the medical community to end paternal medicine, where only the physician has access to healthcare information, and to embark on a new beginning where patients own their data.  Dr. Topol compared the new mobile technology to the Gutenberg press and the way it revolutionized the way information was shared throughout the world.

We are embarking into a new era where patients have the mobile tools to better enable them to participate in their own medical diagnoses and treatment.



Long Distance Learning

Along with other massive changes brought on by the increasing power and reach of the internet, the past decade has seen a drastic increase in the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees attained online. Today, more than 12,000 different “digital degrees” can be obtained from accredited U.S. universities, a figure that has grown by double digits annually for the last five years.

While the growth of the internet has enabled a plethora of such ‘distance learning’ opportunities for collegiate education, new technologies and practices in telemedicine are simultaneously reinventing the approach to professional education in hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world.

The educational aspects of telehealth programs demand the least effort and level of investment of any implementation of the discipline, but the benefits of adoption are immense, and can serve as the building blocks for increased engagement down the road.

Telemedicine actually allows hospitals to bring the education directly into the facility, offering professional training directly from the experts on the newest procedures and protocols, as well as serving as a 24/7 resource always available for consultation.  Bringing this type of program into a hospital not only helps administrators, physicians, nurses, and staff better perform their jobs and offer patients a better standard of care, but also creates champions of the telemedicine services, opening the door to a healthcare ecosystem that is far more responsive to innovation.

Introducing telemedicine to healthcare facilities through educational initiatives is also a great way to align the goals of the hospital and the provider to foster stronger relationships for the future. The facility wants to offer top quality care within the confines of a tightening budget, and the provider wants to help its client hospital save lives while reducing spending in the process to demonstrate its competitive advantage. The educational process is a great way to interface with the effective and efficient solutions that telehealth can offer. It is a major step towards a future where all hospitals have access to the resources they need to operate equally efficiently; a win for patient and provider alike.