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Remote monitoring matures beyond “cool” status

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  By Bryan Fuhr, Co-Founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Healthsense, Inc. , March 17, 2014

Bryan FuhrFrom a recent flurry of high-profile acquisitions to publication of studies examining the clinical and financial potential, signs point to the maturation of the remote monitoring technology market from “cool gadgets” to “key player.” It is an often-underestimated market segment that has quietly gone about establishing the value of commercially rugged and widely available technologies and their potential to address significant macro-economic problems in aging services. 

Senior service providers and payers alike are now leveraging advanced aging services technologies to support the diverse and rapidly evolving needs of the expanding senior population. They increasingly rely on the potential innovative technologies hold to improve care utilization for increased quality of and access to care—the objectives behind pay-for-performance care and reimbursement models emerging in the wake of healthcare reform. 

When those technologies include remote monitoring, senior living communities are better able to address the challenges associated with caring for an older, higher-acuity population. Specifically, by monitoring “activities of daily living,” remote sensors 1) allow seniors to securely age in place while still having ready access to needed healthcare resources and 2) provide caregivers with the timely information they need to intervene appropriately. 

Indeed, the potential of remote monitoring has finally caught the eye of several of the nation’s top insurance organizations. Humana, for example, recently launched a pilot study to measure the impact in-home sensors and remote monitoring technology have on improving health outcomes and reducing frailty and fall-related hospital admissions for Medicare members with chronic health conditions. 

This rapid maturation is possible in large part because of the speed at which remote sensor functionality has evolved. No longer limited to detecting emergency situations such as falls, today’s remote sensors can be used to monitor and measure key wellness indicators such as sleep quality, daily activities and other physiological information, alerting caregivers to potential emergent health conditions. The end result is more informed and proactive care decisions that reduce costs and slow the progression of major health concerns through the senior care continuum. 

This is supported by a recent economic analysis which found that assisted and independent living communities that deploy remote monitoring technology with emergency response capabilities increase length-of-stay by reducing the number of discharges to higher-acuity care settings, and increase the services delivered in-place. The percentage of move-outs in communities with remote monitoring technology is 27 percent lower than those without, while monthly average revenues increase by more than threefold. Remote monitoring also offsets the equivalent of one full-time employee per day (40 hours per week) in time saved on room checks alone. 

These outcomes, coupled with avoiding investments into bricks-and-mortar expansions to accommodate increased demand—an expensive and unsustainable long-term strategy due to the evolving nature of the senior population—are why remote monitoring can now be found at many of the nation’s leading senior living communities. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the largest non-profit senior living provider, has deployed nearly 2,000 remote monitoring systems. Founding members of the Healthsense Care Alliance including Ebenezer (part of Fairview Health Services), The Lutheran Home Association and Northfield Retirement Community have all deployed sensor technologies, as have Volunteers of America (VoA) Presbyterian Homes & Services and Ecumen. 

Advanced functionality, high adoption rates and demonstrated value are not the only evidence to suggest remote monitoring has come of age. There is also the accelerated consolidation among leading technology providers, most recently the Healthsense-WellAware acquisition as well as the acquisition of QuietCare by GE. 

Similar to many top health IT market segments, consolidation is a necessary next step in the evolution of remote monitoring. It brings together best practices, complementary platforms and innovative customers necessary to expand and enhance the technology’s ability to impact workflows and change outcomes as the needs, and the healthcare industry itself, evolve. 


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