Remote health monitoring or tele-medicine has been around for a number of years. The ability to monitor healthcare at a distance has grown with the increase in computer and smartphone applications and healthcare devices that can give health information to physicians, patients, and family caregivers. The remote health monitoring marketplace is expected to hit the $16 billion dollar mark by 2016.
More people are turning to the convenience of smartphone applications to help them live healthier lives. Nearly half of all smartphone users have downloaded at least one health-related application. There are quite a number of apps out there, from calorie counting to mindfulness training to pulse monitors.
There has been more demand for these devices and applications as the Boomer population has aged. They let people keep an eye on vital statistics to help them make choices about their health on their own. There are devices that keep an eye on blood pressure, glucose levels, body temperature, daily exercise, cardiac rate, caloric intake, and more. The popular FitBit can measure most of these and send the information to a physician for analysis, as well as to the user’s smartphone and computer.
Recent advances in tele-medicine have even made it possible to monitor complex cases like diabetes, heart issues, and fetal monitoring. Such integrated health solutions allow the patient to interact with doctors, nurses and other health professionals on an as-needed basis, and vice versa. Medical monitoring devices also make it possible for medicine to be dispensed by an automatic pillbox. For medications that require high compliance or strict dosages, these pillboxes can remind a patient when to take medicine and only allow the right amount for each dose. This can prevent an accidental overdose.
Doctors love data. By helping doctors gather it through devices like these, it lets them catch problems earlier. It also lets patients take a more active role in their health care. A problem caught early can prevent or shorten a hospital stay. It also helps patients save money, spend more time with their families, and feel more independent.
While many of these new technologies and medical alert services provide a direct link between health care professionals and patients in a very convenient and almost seamless way, there is still a place for third party monitoring services that can interact between patients, their families and physicians and hospitals.
For those who are caring for elderly parents or someone with a chronic lifelong health issue, in-home monitoring systems can be a boon. Wireless technology has made it possible to check in on a loved one via a web cam and a smart phone, tablet or personal computer. The Boomer generation values independence. They may not want to have a live-in caretaker. An in-home monitoring system can give both patients and caretakers space while still providing a watchful eye. They are very valuable for those who may be suffering from memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Monitoring systems work best when used with Personal Emergency Response Systems or PERS for short. These are also known as medical alert devices. They allow users to contact EMS by pushing a button. Today’s PERS devices are now much smaller than when they were first released to the public some 40 years ago. Some even look like personal jewelry. Many are also water resistant and can be worn while bathing or showering. They also work on cellular networks rather than land lines. The latest models can pinpoint the wearer’s location via GPS if they become disoriented or lost, which is valuable information for emergency services personnel.
Enough people enjoy the benefits of telemedicine for it not to go away anytime soon. Real-time monitoring of health problems and vital statistics brings positive changes to the lives of the patients who need it. In the future, we might even see entire labs on a chip that can do bloodwork right at home.
Charlie Kimball is a Chief Communications Officer at MedicalCareAlert.com, a Michigan-based company providing home care monitoring for family members who choose to stay at home despite medical challenges. She also blogs for her company.