Last year healthcare providers remotely monitored about 308,000 patients worldwide for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions, according to a recent report from InMedica. By 2017 that number should spike to 1.8 million patients, the research firm predicts.
InMedica found that the majority of patients are being remotely monitored to prevent readmission following a visit to an acute care setting, but telehealth is also being used to monitor those that have never been hospitalized, and were diagnosed at an ambulatory care facility. The firm found that in the US, some 140,000 post-acute patients were monitored by telehealth technologies in 2012, as compared to 80,000 ambulatory patients.
InMedica: World Telehealth Patients (thousands) By Disease
“A major challenge for telehealth, is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients. However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalised more than once in a year,“ Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at InMedica, said in a statement.
The firm finds that CHF patients make up the largest group of those being remote monitored, and COPD patients made up the next largest group. By 2017, diabetes will likely overtake COPD, according to InMedica, as there is increasing momentum to provide care givers to remotely access patients glucose data.
Earlier this month Berg Insight claimed that at the end of 2012 some 2.8 million patients worldwide were using home monitoring services and devices with “integrated connectivity”, which means the devices had integrated chips to send data directly to in-home communication hubs or even directly to caregivers over cellular networks. Berg Insight says this number will grow by 26.9 percent annually to 9.4 million in 2017. While InMedica's metrics are based on a patient population that only has a handful of conditions, it is hard to reconcile the two numbers.
InMedica outlined four key drivers of demand for telehealth:
Federal-driven demand: Readmission penalties introduced by the U.S. Centre for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are driving providers to adopt telehealth as a means of reducing readmission penalties. Faced with increasing healthcare expenditure, other governments, including the U.K., France and China are also promoting telehealth as a long-term cost-saving measure.
Provider-driven demand: Healthcare providers want to use telehealth to increase ties to patients and improve quality of care. In many cases this is being done irrespective of the lack of a clear financial return on investment.
Payer-driven demand: Telehealth is also being increasingly used by insurance providers to increase their competitiveness and reduce in-patient pay-outs, by working directly with telehealth suppliers to monitor their patient base.
Patient-driven demand: There is currently very little demand from patients actively seeking out and requesting telehealth services from their payer or provider. Patient-driven demand is mostly limited to rural/non-metropolitan areas where there is a poor availability of clinics and physicians. As fitness awareness increases and consumers adopt personal devices to track their fitness, they will also increasingly seek professional devices to remotely track disease state.