5 Key Points Physicians Should Know
In today’s digital world, we have smartphones, smart homes -- and increasingly we will have smart healthcare. From pills to pacemakers, a growing number of medical devices will be connected to the internet, enabling both patients and physicians to enhance the health of individuals and populations. Another aspect of this trend – telemedicine – is already taking off, with particular support from employers and encouragement by the federal government.
These advances, known generally as the Internet of Things (IoT), offer huge promise for the future of healthcare. Telemedicine is already saving money for patients, providers and payers, especially by reducing the frequency and length of hospital visits1.
As incentives and opportunities converge to “connect” healthcare, here are five important things for doctors to know:
- Connected and remote care can be a powerful tool to help physicians meet the Triple Aim by enhancing quality, reducing costs and increasing patient satisfaction.
- The use of telemedicine is rising significantly, with nearly 2 million users expected this year2. Such remote physician visits – via phone, online video or online chat – are meeting patient demand for easy and affordable access to certain services, such as routine care for minor illnesses. Telemedicine’s lower cost will continue to appeal to consumers, especially given likely changes to the Affordable Care Act that would raise out-of-pocket expenses. These services are also increasing healthcare access for populations like diabetics, veterans, and behavioral health patients, who benefit from frequent contact. Moreover, most people feel OK about such care: Nearly 80% of those surveyed reported they would be at least somewhat comfortable interacting with a physician via online video or online chat, according to one study.3
- IoT technology exists for collecting a wide range of health data and transmitting it in real time. Consumers have already jumped on this trend via activity trackers such as Fitbit®, which measure footsteps, heart rate, sleep and other fitness metrics. In healthcare, sensors can monitor a patient’s behavior and symptoms, helping doctors to diagnose problems and customize treatments. In several current trials, for instance, patients with chronic conditions – such as congestive heart failure -- are wearing sensors that continuously monitor weight, blood pressure, pulse and other indicators. This data gives physicians early alerts to potential problems, so they can help patients avoid emergency care or hospitalization.4
- Reimbursement poses a challenge. Physicians are not yet compensated for the costs associated with streams of data generated by sensors on medical devices. And there are no payer codes for telemedicine visits. However, this is likely to change as the value of these advances is demonstrated over time. Plus, modest investments may be offset by value-based incentive payments from Medicare and other payers. For instance, practices could soon provide smart devices to their highest-risk patients, to encourage collection and transmission of critical health data between visits.
- Prepare for the IoT revolution. Physicians can start by simply measuring and applying their medical judgment to their own health conditions. Use an activity tracker (e.g. Fitbit), Wi-Fi weight scale or smart glucose meter, for example. Create your own personal health record (PHR) to determine the best ways to record performance.
Clearly, connected care and the IoT are poised to change the future of medicine. Continuum remains strongly focused on the wide spectrum of healthcare advances and opportunities, in order to help physicians succeed. For more information on how we can assist your practice, please call (856) 782-3300 x2419 or visit www.continuumhealth.net
Pills that report when they're swallowed, pacemakers that transmit data, a wearable EEG...for a quick look at these three IoT examples, download our summary.
David Kovel, CIO
David Kovel leads the information systems technology department for Continuum. As Chief Information Officer, Mr. Kovel oversees all of Continuum’s technology services, operations, and applications, while supervising strategic planning to ensure that Continuum and its healthcare clients are at the forefront of technological developments that maximize service and efficiency. A seasoned healthcare technology practitioner, Mr. Kovel has served as a senior executive for a number of health care and related organizations. He has acted as the interim CIO and senior technology leader for several physician lead provider organizations across the country in a variety of markets. As a healthcare domain expert, Mr. Kovel blends an ability to see the big picture while maintaining his passion for the tactical details that ensure programmatic success.