NEHI Identifies 11 Emerging Chronic Disease Technologies To Watch
Cites Potential to Improve Care, Lower Costs for At-Risk Populations
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (June 13, 2012) – NEHI, a national health policy institute dedicated to finding innovative solutions to health care problems, today identified eleven emerging technologies that have the potential to improve care and lower costs for chronic disease patients, especially those in at-risk populations.
The “technologies to watch” target a range of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, stroke and heart disease, and reflect the growing emphasis on empowering patients to monitor their own care through the use of mobile platforms, social networking and home-based telehealth technologies. The technologies include web-based platforms that enable patients to connect virtually to their physician through their smartphone or personal computer, cell phone apps for medication reminders and asthma control, and in-car wireless systems that monitor patients’ health while they are driving. According to NEHI’s selection criteria, the technologies are under-used but have high future potential and align to the safety net population with low cost and easy access.
“Nearly half of all American adults have at least one chronic illness,” said NEHI President Wendy Everett. “And these eleven emerging technologies hold the promise of greatly helping them manage their disease and connect with their doctors in real time.”
Each of the technologies are profiled in NEHI’s new report, “Getting to Value: Eleven Chronic Disease Technologies to Watch,” published with support from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). The report (one-page flyer or full report) also identifies cross-cutting lessons learned about the role of technology in creating value and offers an overview of some of the barriers that hold back their adoption.
“The burden of chronic disease falls disproportionately on safety-net populations,” said Margaret Laws, director of CHCF’s Innovations for the Underserved Program. “So it’s imperative that we explore ways in which we can use new technologies to lower cost and improve quality and access.”
The eleven technologies on NEHI’s watch list (described below) include:
- Tele-Stroke Care
- Virtual Visits
- Mobile Asthma Management Tools
- In-Car Telehealth
- Extended Care eVisits
- Mobile Clinical Decision Support
- Medication Adherence Tools
- Social Media Promoting Health
- Mobile Cardiovascular Tools
- Home Telehealth
- Mobile Diabetes Management Tools
NEHI has years of experience in identifying underused but promising health care technologies and recommending ways to overcome barriers to adoption. In addition to the current project identifying the eleven chronic disease technologies, NEHI’s research has focused on the promise of tele-ICUs, Computerized Physician Order Entry, and a range of telemedicine technologies.
NEHI is a national health policy institute focused on enabling innovation to improve health care quality and lower health care costs. In partnership with membersfrom all across the health care system, NEHI conducts evidence-based research and stimulates policy change to improve the quality and the value of health care. Together with this unparalleled network of committed health care leaders, NEHI brings an objective, collaborative and fresh voice to health policy. For more information, visit www.nehi.net.
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NEHI’s Technology Descriptions
For reader convenience, I condensed the following technology descriptions from NEHI’s document.
1. Tele-Stroke Care
“Every year, 795,000 Americans suffer from a stroke resulting in 137,000 deaths, making it the third leading cause of death for all Americans.” Tele-stroke technology is used in a medical setting in smaller, rural and community hospitals to “virtually” bring the expertise of stroke centers and enhanced stroke care, most notably through the monitored administration of a clot-busting drug called a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).
2. Virtual Visits
When patients delay or avoid seeing a doctor, conditions can worsen and then require costly interventions and trips to the emergency room. Virtual visit technologies address this issue by making physicians more accessible through web based audio and video calls. With a smartphone, tablet, PC or kiosk, patients can share information with their provider in real-time and thus minimize the need for travel and office visits. And with many of these technologies, the dialogue between patient and provider can be enhanced by sharing clinical data collected at home, thus overlapping with functions of Home Telehealth.
3. Mobile Asthma Management Tools
These tools can include GPS attachments to inhalers that record when and where inhalers are used, mobile logging apps where patients can manually enter asthma data, and early warning software that alerts patients to potential asthma conditions based on environmental factors like allergens and pollutants. Such technologies empower patients to better understand where and what triggers asthma attacks so they can work with their providers and public health officials in their communities to avoid or minimize the risks.
4. In-Car Telehealth
The American automobile is synonymous with a sedentary lifestyle and, increasingly, our growing obesity epidemic. 119 million of us commute to work by car and average 24-28 minutes each way, totaling more than 47 million hours in the car each year. So, some health care technology companies are developing systems to better use this “lost” time for health management, and car manufacturers are following suit. Apple just announced that iOS 6.0, its operating system for smartphones and tablets, will now support Siri speech recognition over cellular networks, where before it required a Wi-Fi connection. Over a dozen American car manufacturers have committed to adding a smartphone interface button on the steering wheel to facilitate an eyes-free speech interface for navigation and medical apps. (Apple also announced its own mapping software with turn-by-turn directions.)
5. Extended Care eVisits
When physicians are unable to make routine visits to nursing homes and extended care facilities, because they’re busy elsewhere, most patients receive physician in a hospital setting, which results in overuse of the emergency room and higher costs. Extended Care eVisit technologies enable physicians to consult remotely with nursing home patients by audio or video call, addressing the physician shortage challenge of providing around-the-clock on-call medical coverage. Technologies designed to connect physicians with nursing home residents at their bedside can be as simple a push cart that the nurse brings during rounds, to robots that show up on their own to deliver video conferencing on demand.
6. Mobile Clinical Decision Support
Providers often complain about the lack of proper information at the point of care, whether it’s primary care, home care, or ambulatory care since this can become critical during emergency situations.
That’s why smartphones are being loaded with clinical decision support information to help physicians make better diagnoses in all patient care settings. These mobile and web-based tools provide easy to access information on appropriate treatments and can assist in preventing medical errors, reducing adverse drug events, and reducing preventable hospital readmissions.
7. Medication Adherence Tools
Tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic conditions that result in increased morbidity and mortality and billions of dollars in health care costs. Despite the human and financial toll, many of these diseases can be managed with proper use of prescription drugs, but up to half of all patients don’t take their medications as prescribed. Tools that help people take their meds on time can save hundreds of billions of dollars and can be as simple as cell phones with reminders or reminder calls.
8. Social Media Promoting Health
Promoting good health is far less expensive than providing medical remedies, so many social media sites leverage existing platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage and educate patients, connect them with their peers, and promote personal fitness and nutrition. They are proven effective in preventing and managing chronic diseases and encouraging general well-being and can be accessed by any Internet-connected device, including mobile phones.
9. Mobile Cardiovascular Tools
Patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) will often not recognize or ignore symptoms, and this can lead to costly interventions and sometimes mortality. Tools that monitor their vital signs can give these patients insight into their disease and allow them to notice clinical aberrations before they become serious problems. These tools come in various forms, ranging from mobile blood pressure (BP) cuffs and electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors to body sensors, and all enable remote monitoring of critical cardiovascular data that can be shared wirelessly with caregivers and providers.
Home Telehealth (HT) technologies allow patients to take a more active role in managing their chronic diseases by transmitting vital health data from their home to physicians’ offices and receiving health coaching based on the data they transmit. HT systems often include a standalone hub device that acts as a health gateway to collect physiologic data from peripheral devices and connect the patient to providers. HT also includes audio & video conferencing tools that allow remotely located health care professionals to interview, observe and educate the patient, often with full-motion instructional videos.
11. Mobile Diabetes Management Tools
Mobile devices are used to collect and log blood glucose readings, provide real-time reminders & alerts, translate and interpret data over time, and share findings with caregivers and physicians who can then provide guidance and educational materials based on trends identified.