Report: Wireless telehealth may reduce U.S. healthcare costs

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With public attention in the United States focused on ways to reform the healthcare system, a publication from ABI Research examines wireless telehealth and forecasts that 15 million systems will be in use--mainly in North America--by early in 2012, and may serve as a means of cost savings.

"Wireless telehealth systems can reduce healthcare costs in a couple of ways," said research practice director Sam Lucero. "First, for patients with chronic conditions, wireless telehealth's ability to monitor and track their status allows many problems to be nipped in the bud before they require expensive hospitalization and treatment. Second, the traditional approach to home healthcare requires regular visits by nurses to check on patients' conditions. By providing that same information automatically, wireless telehealth systems can reduce those labor and travel costs."

According to the report, a secondary benefit is that more people will be able to remain in their own homes as they age, which will reduce the burden on medical and residential institutions.

In addition to remote patient management, smaller subsets of the telehealth market include personal emergency response systems, ambient-assisted living and the newest application, mobile personal monitoring.

North America, with its aging population and technology-oriented medical industry, is central to the telehealth market and is expected to remain so over the report's forecast period, which extends through 2014.

However, coverage for telehealth systems by private insurers and Medicare/Medicaid is patchy at best, which, according to Lucero, is seen as a barrier to development of this market.

"The industry believes reimbursement for telehealth systems should be more comprehensive and straightforward. Proposed legislation is generating optimism," he said.