New wireless internet technologies could reduce physician visits for patients with chronic diseases

The New York Times on Saturday examined new technologies that will allow tens of millions of U.S. residents with chronic diseases such as heart failure, diabetes and mental illnesses to have their conditions "constantly monitored, remotely and virtually, as they go about their daily lives."

The technologies -- developed by medical device companies such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbott Laboratories -- will allow regulation of heart rate and delivery of shocks when necessary; wireless Internet communication between patients and physicians; blood pressure, glucose and weight monitoring; and alerts about lung and circulatory problems.

Although the "main use of the data gathered by the newest devices is to reconstruct events that send patients to emergency rooms," the "payoff for patients could be more effective use of drugs, fewer and shorter hospital stays and longer stretches between routine visits to physicians' offices," the Times reports.

According to a recent Department of Veteran Affairs study that followed 70 patients over three months, remote monitoring of their heart implants reduced the time their physicians would have spent on office visits by eight days.

However, "leading-edge systems... currently fail to provide a comprehensive picture of chronic diseases," and many physicians face a "pragmatic financial concern about gathering and reviewing remote data because many insurers are providing little or no reimbursement for such work," the Times reports.

In addition, because many physicians currently rely on data collection services run by the device companies and independent monitoring services to warn them of anomalies that might require prompt attention, they "fear that plaintiffs' lawyers will try to pin legal responsibility for recognizing warning signals on them," according to the Times (Feder, New York Times, 9/9).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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