Home monitoring devices may ease world health burden

* Report shows widespread support for devices

* More study needed to prove they are cost effective

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO, Dec 7 (BestGrowthStock) – Many people believe devices that
allow doctors to monitor patients’ vital signs in their homes
offer a potential way to save health costs and allow older
people to stay out of nursing homes.

The trick is proving it, according to a RAND Corp survey
commissioned by home medical equipment maker Royal Philips
Electronics (PHG.AS: ) and released on Tuesday.

The survey of policymakers, providers, patient advocacy
groups and others in six countries found most believe home
healthcare technology has the potential to relieve pressure on
healthcare systems that will soon be clogged by elderly
patients living with chronic diseases.

But the evidence is still not strong enough to show the
devices are cost-effective and ready for widespread adoption.

“These new ideas are potentially very appealing. They move
care out of costly institutions and into patients’ homes,” said
Soeren Mattke, senior scientist at Rand who led the study.

“But given that these are so new, they don’t have a place
in our traditional healthcare system,” Mattke said in a
telephone interview.

The report’s release coincided with an appeal to Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick to
pay for a large-scale study of home monitoring equipment among
people in the Medicare insurance program for the elderly.

The survey drew from more than 100 interviews with
researchers, providers, regulators and others in China, France,
Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States,
as well as a review of studies on the effectiveness of home
healthcare technologies.

These range from widely used technologies such as glucose
monitors for diabetics to advanced telemonitoring equipment
that allow doctors to gather daily information on a patient’s
weight, blood pressure, heart rate and other health measures.

NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE

The report found experts largely agreed that home
healthcare technologies could help meet the swelling demand for
care from aging populations around the world, many of whom are
living with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

“In the United States, for example, the elderly (age 65
years or older) account for only 12 percent of the total
population yet incur 34 percent of total healthcare spending,”
according to the report, which notes that health spending is
growing faster than gross domestic product in most countries.

“This is a global problem,” Mattke said. “The world is
literally running out of doctors and nurses.”

He said by 2014, China will have more people living with
chronic disease than the entire U.S. population.

And while there is not yet enough evidence to prove that
these technologies will actually help or be cost effective,
pockets of evidence suggest they might.

The best evidence so far comes from the U.S. Veterans
Health Administration, which uses remote monitoring equipment
to help veterans manage diabetes, hypertension and chronic
heart failure.

A 2008 VA study of 17,025 home telehealth patients showed
the devices cut the average number of days hospitalized by 25
percent and produced a 19 percent reduction in hospital
admissions.

“The trends are clear,” said Walter van Kuijen, general
manager of Home Monitoring for Philips Healthcare, which paid
for the study. “We have to get moving on the topic.”

The Dutch conglomerate makes lighting products and consumer
electronics in addition to hospital equipment for sleep
therapy, respiratory care and CT scans.

The company said last week it hopes the new U.S health
reform law — which focuses on improving patient care while
controlling health costs — will drive demand for the company’s
home monitoring devices. [ID:nN29209551]

(Editing by Paul Simao)

Home monitoring devices may ease world health burden