We are living through one of the most dynamic ages in the history of medicine. In the past, several centuries would come and go while very little would change in the way a community cared for its sick members. But now, with technology enabling research, drug discoveries, device inventions, medical supply enhancements, as well as the ability to communicate and deliver all of these innovations to the world, we are witness to more change, and more hope, within a few short years than any other generation in human history.
And this change could not have come at a better time.
We face big challenges today:
- A growing number of uninsured people.
- A growing cost to deliver medical care.
- A growing realization that there is a lot of waste (that we cannot afford, nor tolerate) built into our healthcare delivery system.
- And a growing chronic disease burden...obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease run rampant through our population.
And those are just of few of the major issues that keep the smartest minds in the world perplexed for solutions.
A New HopeNew models are emerging to reign in cost, reduce waste, and improve healthcare quality. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are springing up across the United States to incentivize healthcare payors and providers to share in the risk of medical care. That is, to reap the rewards of improved healthcare quality and efficiency in their patient population, but also to share the financial burden of poorly managed care, outcomes, and inefficiencies.
Home care also grows and many predict it to play a large role in the baby-boom population's later years. Home health care companies send caregivers to a client's (patient's) home to help them manage their chronic conditions so that hopefully they do not become acute.
A third care model, which I believe fits perfectly as an overlay to both ACOs and Home Health Care--in fact I believe it will play an important part in linking them and enabling both to be more successful--is Connected Health.
5 Things to Know About Connected Health
1. What is meant by the term, "Connected Health"?Connected Health connects patients to their healthcare providers via technology now found in common household items, such as cell phones, computers, smart phones and tablets, and simple networked medical devices.
2. What are some of the primary goals of Connected Health?
Improve efficient delivery of care. Catch warning signs earlier. Motivate patients to participate, consistently and effectively, in the monitoring and management of their chronic conditions, such as Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity, and Heart Failure.
In short, better health outcomes at lower cost.
Connected Health can also work well for people who are trying to prevent these common chronic conditions. The patient's health care team (primary care physician, nurse, nutritionist, etc.) can set goals for the patient through a prescribed regimen of diet and exercise. The patient reports his or her results on a consistent basis electronically so that the care team can monitor progress and provide coaching.
3. Process and Tools
- The patient uses measurement tools such as a home-health blood pressure kit or glucose meter.
- The patient and the device record the readings and transmit the data either wirelessly or through a connected internet connection so that the health care team can interpret the results within the context of that patient's specific medical history.
- The health care team uses the software to send back to the patient a customized coaching plan that encourages the patient to continue or modify their program, as they see fit. This feedback mechanism can also include advice to the patient on what obstacles may arise, and options for avoiding them.
- The software models that have been developed so far have included gaming technology to make this whole process fun for the patient. Contests, success stories, and progress meters and graphs of various designs, have been in use for a few years now to keep the patient engaged.
4. Who are some prominent innovators of connected health?
- Center for Connected Health, Boston, MA
- The Healthcare Delivery Institute at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Worcester, MA
- Healthrageous, Boston, MA
5. What is the potential?There is a long road to travel before wide-spread adoption. Or is there? These connected health programs, companies, and research institutes have the benefit of technology's rapid implementation muscle, as well as a healthcare system that needs them to succeed in their purpose. That's a good recipe to enable imminent wide-spread adoption.
As these organizations continue to develop their methods, they have the potential to provide the solutions our healthcare system needs to deliver better quality care, at a more affordable cost, to a growing number of people.