A preliminary but very encouraging study on lowering the cost of asthma was published recently. As I wrote about in an earlier blog entry, small telemonitoring devices are attached to the actuators that deliver medicine, recording the time and location of the event. Downloaded to a phone app and share with the physician, self monitoring reduces visits to ERs and hospitalization. The difference is dramatic.
Inpatient days reduced over 60%, and ER visits reduced 27% compared to the control population in the study, which received the device but no data. The total cost reduction in patient care was almost $690 per year.
Asthma is exactly the kind of chronic disease that forms the core problem for rising healthcare costs in the US and other developed countries. Creating data that is reliable and shared in real time allows one doctor to efficiently monitor 1,000 patients and target just those that need intervention on that particular day.
The key innovations here go beyond self monitoring as a concept. The data collection is more precise, and does not rely on the patient. Data is shared with a standard platform – the smartphone, and shared with the physician in real time.
What we can do with asthma, we can do with blood sugar for diabetes. What we can do with an external device, we can do with the phone itself. The patient can simply hold the phone to their chest to record breathing difficulty and heart beat, and send that recording to their doctor for interpretation and future reference. Stick out your tongue and take a selfie, send it in.
We are on the cusp of moving from plugin alcohol sensors to sensors that can predict an asthma attack. While I would still argue that the most important thing we can do to lower healthcare costs is change the behaviors – smoking, overeating, lack of exercise – that cause many chronic health problems, it is clear that technical innovation is moving the time of first intervention forward, at that saves an enormous amount of money. Prevention really is much cheaper than cure.
H/T David Van Sickle, photo credit Propeller Health.