Technology May Reduce Doctor Visits in LTC, Report Says

Calibrated care, or the combination of technology and care levels and locations, could be just what’s necessary to curb healthcare costs, according to an August report released by Aging in Place Technology Watch. The goal of calibrated care is to reduce the use of hospital emergency rooms as the primary means of accessing healthcare for many seniors, which is also the most expensive way to receive care.

Home care monitoring and telehealth: The wave of the future

The report, “Calibrated Care is Closer to Home: 2012 Aging and Health Technology,” promotes the use of home care monitoring, telehealth technology, self-care technology, retail clinics and even websites that help patients and caregivers monitor chronic illnesses to reduce the costly expense of care received in physicians’ offices and emergency rooms. The key to reducing costs, according to this report, is appropriately matching the level, time and location of care with the right technologies.

Citing information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report points to the fact that two-thirds of all emergency room visits are not considered true emergencies. And with technological advances, patients could be monitoring chronic diseases and sending reports to their physicians electronically. In acute situations, patients could be triaged remotely and directed to the appropriate level of care, avoiding unnecessary trips to the ER and sometimes avoiding heading out to a doctor altogether with home care options.

Remote monitoring can improve medication compliance

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With all the possibilities available to reduce unnecessary healthcare spending, there’s been a slow adoption of services that can aid in treatment and home and promote self-care and remote monitoring. There have even been a number of successful pilot programs conducted that have demonstrated the potential cost savings. Primary adopters of this technology have been major providers, and the primary issue seems to be a lack of pay rate and reimbursement standardization.

Technology is working and widely adopted for chronic illness, medication management

The report finds that 50 percent of the senior population has at least one chronic illness. Fortunately, chronic disease management is one area in which remote monitoring tools seem to have been more widely accepted. Health communications can be conducted online, physicians can consult with patients via email individually and sometimes in virtual groups.

Medication management is another area in which technology is working. Non-compliance and incorrect dosing accounts for a significant number of emergency visits, but thanks to tools and gadgets like pill dispensers and reminders, elderly patients in particular can maintain compliance more easily. With remote monitoring and reporting of lab work and other data, physicians can adjust dosages when appropriate without ever seeing a patient face-to-face.

A promising future for telemedicine

Despite slow adoption, the future remains optimistic for telehealth. As both seniors and providers realize the value and potential cost savings of being able to more efficiently manage both acute and chronic illness without multiple trips to providers, a more standardized system will emerge for processing payments and reimbursements. Soon, the report predicts, telehealth and remote monitoring will be the norm, allowing seniors to stay in their homes while still receiving the top-quality care needed to maintain their health.

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