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Caregivers Open the Door to Home-Based Healthcare

The medical device industry is evolving from product delivery to a more robust administration of services and solutions offering more involvement during the entire process of treatment. 

Medical treatment is shifting from the hospital to the home as increased healthcare spending, demographic changes and technological advancements converge to spur growth in mobile health monitoring devices.

Americans spent $3 trillion on healthcare in 2014, up more than five percent over the prior year and accounting for a record-high 17.5 percent of our total economy. By 2024, spending on hospitals, doctors, drugs and other healthcare expenses is projected to consume 19.6 percent of our economy – approximately $9,500 per person per year. That cost nearly triples for the 65 and older age group, which currently represents nearly 15 percent of the total population, a ratio projected to increase to 20 percent by 2030.

The cost of managing chronic diseases is another factor driving up healthcare spending. An estimated 117 million Americans suffer from one or more chronic health conditions, and such care is expensive. The cost of treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86 percent of U.S. healthcare spending.

Value-based healthcare targets better outcomes
The need to counter these increased costs has prompted a shift from the “pay for service” healthcare delivery model to a “pay for value” model, with the focus on keeping people healthy and out of hospitals rather than simply paying for treatments, surgical procedures and costly diagnostic services. Under the new delivery model, payers are looking for better outcomes at lower costs, a shift in approach that is facilitated by converging technologies and a more advanced eco-system that allows mobile applications and devices to communicate seamlessly with healthcare systems.

Remote health monitoring has been identified as one effective way of meeting these objectives. Given the increasing reach of the Internet and mobile networks, innovative healthcare delivery models have been devised to leverage this reach and enable providers to deliver cost-effective care to everyone, including those in remote locations. This has made it possible to shift healthcare delivery from the expensive, over-burdened, acute, reactive hospital settings into proactive, home-based care, encouraging disease prevention and self-care at a lower cost point.

Advances in wireless networking, embedded sensors and microcontrollers promise a new generation of remote monitoring applications like cardiac rehabilitation, diabetes monitoring, rehabilitation after hip/knee replacements and traumatic brain injuries. Some medical devices are becoming wearable and more user-friendly, so they can easily be deployed at the point of care, outside a hospital environment.

Continuous ambulatory monitoring can benefit patients with chronic lifestyle diseases as well as those recovering from an acute coronary event or surgical procedure, by enabling early detection of abnormal conditions for preventive action. This in turn reduces the need for an extended stay in a hospital or the need to make emergency visits for reactive treatments, thereby significantly reducing the cost of care.

In a typical remote monitoring framework, portable/wearable patient monitoring devices like blood pressure monitors, weighing scales, blood glucose monitors, or ECG monitors used to track vital signs on a continuous basis in a home environment, are connected to mobile devices like smart phones or tablets using different connectivity platforms like Bluetooth, WiFi or 4G. The data collected is encrypted for safety and privacy and then integrated onto a cloud, from which it can be fed to a hospital information system or electronic health record to allow access to doctors, caregivers and insurance companies anytime, anywhere, as well as the option for data analytics.

Remote monitoring facilitates early detection and prevention
Here’s how it works: A diabetic patient with a wearable blood glucose monitor can have the information captured, stored and transmitted to care providers, who analyze the data and suggest corrective action, if required. Similarly, cardiac patients can be monitored continuously, having their heart rate readings sent to a central server that doctors can access to track the success of a treatment, or even use algorithms to predict impending problems.

Mobile health services work across wellness, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring, all while improving the efficiency of healthcare providers in care delivery. Its popularity with patients and caregivers alike indicates that the market will continue to grow in the near term. And as more and more patients choose to treat medical conditions in their own homes, it is likely that medical device manufacturers will see the need to continue developing new devices and applications that take advantage of remote access monitoring, data collection and analysis.

Companies that produce medical devices know they face stiff competition in this rapidly evolving industry. They need to stay ahead of demand for current products while they continue to innovate on new offerings, all while dealing with the pressure to maintain or decrease costs.

Many medical device manufacturers have seen the wisdom of partnering with an engineering service provider like EASi, which allows them to supplement their workforce in a sustainable and cost-effective way. With the flexibility of matching the workforce to the workload, these companies ensure they have the resources they need to continue developing the highest quality products.

Sources: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2015; National Center for Health Statistics 2012; PWC Health Research Institute