Connected health--continuous, remote monitoring of chronic conditions, as well as online and mobile care--will improve quality, contain costs and provide a new level of convenience for health consumers, according to a report from New York City-based consulting company Accenture.
According to Accenture, three enabling technologies combined with growing, ubiquitous connectivity are important to the future of chronic care:
- Emergence of consumer health electronics will allow the capture and sharing of patient information in a variety of settings;
- Technologies that combine and interpret data about an individual’s health and wellness so that appropriate interventions can be made before an acute situation occurs (i.e., predictive-modeling techniques); and
- A range of tools including user modeling, advanced visualization, decision support and collaboration.
Collectively, these technologies enable clinicians and health consumers alike to better use the information available for more effective decision making and actions, the report noted.
“[E]arly evidence shows that connected health can help lower the cost of care by reducing potential ER visits and hospitalizations,” the report said, citing the New England Healthcare Institute, which found net savings of more than $1,861 per patient using remote monitoring for heart failure patients in 2004. This economic driver, along with using connected health to reduce the number of caregivers to effectively handle the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals, could accelerate connected health, according to Accenture.
Another driver relates to patient safety and quality of care, noted Accenture. "In a continuous care environment, real-time remote monitoring devices can promptly detect abnormal physiological developments, trigger appropriate interventions and reduce noncompliance," the authors wrote. Accenture cited a 2002 Veterans Health Administration study on remote monitoring that demonstrated that, aside from cost savings, patients also reported being more educated, secure and better able to manage their own healthcare needs.
“[C]onnected health offers key stakeholders great opportunities to address their shared as well as respective priorities,” the authors wrote. “By increasing patient visibility and enabling early actions, it can improve the quality of care, reduce costs and enhance work efficiency.”
Accenture acknowledged that broad adoption of connected health hinges upon aging baby boomers. Baby boomers are self-reliant, techologically savvy and “their control of the purse strings is expected to expand significantly as private businesses and governments continue to shift a larger share of healthcare costs to customers,” according to Accenture.
“The combination of self-determination, technology sophistication, growing age-related health needs and expanding spending power will ultimately help make connected health a way of life,” the report concluded.