Chronic Care Management (CCM) is a Medicare program launched in 2015 that reimburses doctors for “non-face-to-face” contact with patients with two or more chronic conditions. A chronic condition can be anything from high blood pressure to diabetes, and these conditions represent 15 percent of the U.S. population and 80 percent of the Medicare spending. The thought is that monitoring patients more frequently will improve their health and reduce costs.
Enter the wearable technology market, which is introducing more and more health-monitoring devices and features, some of which are aimed at patients and caregivers facing chronic health issues.
Biotricity Inc. has developed an advanced heart monitoring device that allows doctors to remotely monitor patients for fine-tuned heartbeat and arrhythmia detection, with programmable alerts that can be tailored for each patient. The Bioflux device is offered through medical practices, and the Biolife device is available for consumers.
Apple watchers have said that the company is working on a wearable device that will monitor a user’s vital signs including heart rate, pulse, blood sugar and other information and transmit the information to the user’s iPhone.
Google parent Alphabet has designed a watch that it calls a “cardiac activity monitor” to be used for medical research and clinical trials. The device monitors the user’s heart beat, skin temperatures, light exposure, noise levels and more.
More Physician Contact
Several studies have shown a strong correlation between patient contact with a physician and improved outcomes. Patients in frequent contact with their doctors tend to comply with their healthcare regimes, including medication adherence, more consistently than those with infrequent physician contact. Wearable devices have the potential to automate and streamline the transmission of important information from a patient to his or her doctor. They also have the ability to transmit information 24 hours a day.
One can easily see the application to CCM, which supports the constant monitoring of patients and requires 24/7 patient access to physician practices. Service companies are emerging to allow practices to outsource services like call centers, records management, training and more, and could easily include electronic monitoring services.
According to Clinical Informatics News, “In addition to facilitating compliance and accurate monitoring, wearables could provide greater access to care for patients in remote and rural areas and reduce clinic and hospital visits. Device monitoring would provide physicians with objective and consistent feedback, facilitating personalized treatment.”
Another possibility is that wearables could be programmed to recommend immediate actions to a patient, including instructions to change medication dosages, or to call or visit the doctor.
Barriers to adoption include security and privacy issues, and the reliability of any algorithm that would one day provide treatment instructions. Still, the potential is vast, especially for patients with chronic conditions. As Clinical Informatics News points out, “Chronic disease and pain management require consistent day-to-day actions, rather than visits to the doctor to shape outcomes…For patients with chronic diseases, wearables should remind, warn, encourage, and perhaps most importantly, supply the patient with innovative strategies to comply with treatment regimens (and in some cases, provide that treatment).”