Telemedicine to Lower Cost for 5 Health Issues By: Jessica R.

Green Topic Overview & Introduction: Telemedicine is the advanced technology that will allow patients to monitor their own health at home. These devices can upload patient test outcomes to an online database, where their physicians can keep an eye out for dangerous patterns in the patient’s health. The prevalence of telemedicine is slowly increasing and becoming more advanced, leaving the impetus behind improved health with the patient. Recent Updates: Healthcare IT News (2012) recently announced the five areas of healthcare that telemedicine will likely improve greatly over the coming years: (1) active heart monitoring, (2) blood pressure, (3) diabetes, (4) prescription compliance, and (5) sleep apnea. Physicians and product developers hope that telemedicine will be able to improve patient health by increasing continual monitoring and therefore catching problems before symptoms show up. Telemedicine is also expected to decrease healthcare costs in these areas by eliminating unnecessary doctor visits and preventing bigger health problems earlier. Analysis & Trends: (1) In active heart monitoring, the most recently developed device is an implant that requires no battery or power source; it decreases costs because it does not deteriorate. The new device requires a patient to lie on a pillow that interacts with the device to gain heart readings. This process takes only 18 seconds and then uploads patient data onto the telemedicine database. The amount of data a physician has is dependent upon the patient and the patient’s health rests in his own hands. The patient’s physician receives notices when the readings are abnormal so they can prevent further heart failures by taking action early before breathing problems and weights fluctuation—which is how physicians treated chronic heart failure prior to telemedicine—occur (Harmon, 2011). 5.8 million Americans are reported as suffering from chronic heart failure; a number that continues to grow as more and more people survive heart attacks. In early tests of this new device, heart-related visits in patients by 30%. The heart-related hospital visits that did occur decreased in length from 3.8 days to 2.2 days on average (Harmon, 2011). Each year, $25 billion are spent on patients with chronic heart failure, mostly due to hospital visits. If active heart monitoring devices become widely used, these visits—and therefore costs—may decrease greatly. Particularly, if costs decrease by the 30% that number of hospital visits did, the spending may lower to $17.5 billion (“Cardiovascular diseases,” 2012). (2) Blood pressure monitoring can now be done at home and can therefore be checked every day. With telemedicine, these results can be uploaded into the database and will warn physicians when blood pressure patterns become dangerous. This will allow physicians to take preventative measures before a patient may contract heart disease, stroke, congestive heart

failure, or kidney disease, all of which can be detected by high blood pressure (“High blood pressure facts,” 2012). 1 in every 3 adults has high blood pressure, amounting to around 68 billion people who may need to monitor their blood pressure on a daily basis. In 2008, 347,000 deaths in America were caused by or related to high blood pressure issues. In 2010, high blood pressure cost the United States $93.5 billion on health care, medications, and work absences. If telemedicine blood pressure monitoring becomes more popular, perhaps the nearly 50% of high blood pressure patients that do not have it under control can start to tame their blood pressure (“High blood pressure facts,” 2012). (3) The newest wireless glucose monitoring devices will make diabetes more manageable without the direct care of a physician than ever before. They not only check blood glucose levels, but they also send alerts to physicians and patients when the glucose levels are dangerous. Furthermore, a diabetes patient can use the device to predict how eating certain foods at particular times will change their glucose level, improving it or making it worse (Deschenes, 2012). Currently 8.3 % of the population—25.8 million children and adults—have been diagnosed with diabetes in the United States so far. These patients incur bills totaling $218 billion each year. That amounts to 1 in every 10 dollars in healthcare spent on diabetes. Although insulin and will continue to cost the industry, these devices will prevent glucose levels from becoming dangerous and causing hospital visits and operations (“Diabetes statistics,” 2012). (4) One of the biggest difficulties in the healthcare industry is patient noncompliance. Oftentimes, a physician will prescribe a patient medication and they will not fill the prescription, forget to take it, take it incorrectly, or not finish the full prescription. All of these incorrect usages of prescriptions can lead to additional doctor visits because the patient is still sick, got sick again, or needs another prescription. As well, the incorrect usage of medication and not finishing a prescription can waste a lot of money by way of overproduction of medicine (Deschenes, 2012). New technology will remind patients via email, text, or phone to take their medication, take it correctly, and in the correct amount. Prescription noncompliance leads to three times as many doctor visits as a sickness would normally take. This amounts to an extra $300 billion being spent, consisting of an extra $2,000 worth of healthcare for patients that do not follow their doctor’s instructions. 33-69% of all medication-related hospital visits are due to prescription noncompliance (Showalter, 2006). Hopefully the new telemedicine technology will prove that these numbers are due to forgetfulness and not to active treatment resistance. (5) Sleep apnea, the obstruction of breath during sleep, incurs costs mostly from sleep studies and breathing devices such as the CPAP machine. In 2009, according to the Office of the Inspector General, sleep testing cost Medicare $235 million (Gold, 2012). The new telemedicine device can not only dole out treatments like the CPAP machine, but can also conduct as sleep test (Deschenes, 2012). This device will be able to collect information on a patients sleep patterns and upload them into the database for physicians to access and study. These tests will cost a lot less than hospital or clinic sleep studies and will be more convenient for patients, as they can participate in a sleep study in their own beds. Telemedicine may be able to lower costs

for the nearly 12 million people in the United States suffering from sleep apnea (“Sleep apnea,” 2007). Conclusion: Telemedicine, although a lot of time and money must be invested, seems to have a bright future in terms of lowering healthcare costs. The only question remaining is how this new technology will affect the quality of care patients receive. In the case of active heart monitoring, telemedicine has already been seen to improve patient outcomes by lowering the number of hospital visits as a result of preventative treatment. For the other technologies associated with telemedicine, only time will tell. References Cardiovascular diseases in Minnesota. (2012). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/cardiovascular-disease-rst/medicaledge.html Deschenes, S. (2012, July 27). Top 5 health conditions for telemedicine treatment. Healthcare IT News. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/top-5health-conditions-telemedicine-treatment Diabetes statistics. (2011, January 26). American Diabetes Association. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/ Gold, J. (2012, January 16). The high cost of a good night's sleep. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2012/january/16/sleep-studies.aspx Harmon, K. (2011, February 2). Wireless heart monitor fine-tunes cardiac-failure treatment. Scientific American. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=wireless-heart-monitor&page=3 High blood pressure facts. (2012, March 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm Showalter, MD, A. (2006, March 13). Costs of patient noncompliance. AlignMap. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from alignmap.com/wp-

content/uploads/2006/03/Costs%20Of%20Patient%20Noncompliance.pdf Sleep apnea. (2007). American Sleep Association. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from http://www.sleepassociation.org/index.php?p=sleepapneapublic

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