Remote Monitoring Changes Lives
MedSun: Newsletter #10, December 2006

Sophisticated new remote-monitoring systems are now allowing thousands of patients with chronic diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, and depression to have their conditions monitored on a regular basis as they go about their daily lives rather than in visits to their physicians’ offices. Barnaby J. Feder, writing in The New York Times (Business Section, September 9, 2006), reviews the health care ramifications of technologies being developed by medical device companies such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and Abbott Laboratories. These remote-monitoring devices are able to regulate heart rate and deliver shocks when necessary; provide wireless Internet communication between patients and their doctors; monitor blood pressure, weight, and glucose levels; and alert patients and physicians about lung and circulatory problems.

Mr. Feder reports that 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.” He warns, however, that “the industry’s vision of an electronic healthcare network that never sleeps is a long way from reality. Even leading-edge systems … currently fail to provide a comprehensive picture of chronic diseases.” In addition, 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.” Relying on data collection services run by the device companies and independent monitoring services only compounds this concern. The medical community fears “that plaintiffs’ lawyers will try to pin legal responsibility for recognizing warning signals on them, no matter who is collecting the data.”

Additional Information:

The complete text of Barnaby Feder’s article is available at The New York Times Web site

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