Connected Care: The Future of Healthcare?

Published March 14, 2016

I was recently on a plane when the smartphone of the woman sitting across the aisle from me, sounded an alarm. Frantically she ran to the front of the plane and begged the flight attendants to not shut the door. A few minutes later, she returned to her seat….”another false alarm,” she said.

Apparently, the woman’s mother, who had recently underwent cardiac surgery, was connected via a remote device that monitored her cardiac activity, as well as medication compliance and physical activity, while at home. Alerts, like the one she received earlier, proactively identify risks that could result in re-hospitalization—and a centralized nursing ‘hub’ monitors these alerts, with support from a local home health coach as needed. Her mother, like many people, wanted to heal at home.  Connected care at home allowed this to happen.

Continuous, connected healthcare is the future. An estimated 80M+ different types of devices -from Fitbits, to FDC approved wearables, to stationary devices that track movement and falls at home- are ‘available’ to help manage care at home. These devices can better engage patients; improve communications between clinicians, patients and families; and support care at home post-hospital discharge or for the 117+M adults with chronic disease (2). Connected health is an alternative for an institutional-based healthcare system that was not designed to keep up with demand or the desire for patients to heal and age at home. Aggregation of data collected from patients as they go about their daily routines, when supported by the right analytics and predictive care protocols, will lead to greater personalization of medicine and reduce total healthcare costs. And usage is increasing. A recent report indicated that over half of hospitals are using some form of remote monitoring to support patients under care today.

But challenges, none unsurmountable, remain. Let’s first assume the technology produces accurate readings, data transmission standards exist, and the digital ecosystem is HIPAA compliant. Patients and physicians then need to adopt the technology. How do I set it up?  Does the battery need to be changed? Is it providing me with information I can actually use?   Am I receiving false alerts that drive ‘alert fatigue’? And once we have adoption, we need to determine who actually pays for the devices and monitoring. Finally, regulators will need to wrestle with questions around liability for missed alerts or failures in the technology itself.

When I asked the woman on the plane if she was frustrated by the ‘false alarm’, she seemed surprised by the question. That ‘false alarm’ triggered outreach to her mother just to make sure all was ok. For her mother, this led to comfort in her decision to heal at home and engaged her more fully in her recovery. For the daughter, it provided peace of mind.

Where do you see the challenges in a connected healthcare system? Do you see it as critical to the future of healthcare or a passing fad?