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Telehealth Technology Can Improve Patient Outcomes

2 Apr 2015 by Christine Kern

The patient monitoring market will exceed $5 billion by 2020 as a result of double-digit growth over the next five years in the telehealth market, predicts an iData Research survey. Telehealth for disease conditions management will comprise more than 50% of the total telemedicine market, driven by more chronic illness in an aging population, increasing demand for customized healthcare solutions and financial pressures due to overburdened healthcare budgets.

Telemedicine is defined as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ clinical health status,” according to the American Telemedicine Association. “Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education … and nursing call centers … are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.”

“The goal of telehealth is to prevent hospital readmission, reduce in-office visits, better manage health of individuals with long-term conditions, and reduce costs for more remote and isolated healthcare providers,” explains Kamran Zamanian, CEO of iData. When placed in the hands of traveling nurses, telemedicine can be a useful tool.

In particular, telehealth technology is beneficial in tracking cardiac and elderly patients to prevent readmissions and improve patient outcomes. When employed by traveling nurses, these technologies make healthcare more efficient and effective.

A Geisinger Health Plan study found that the use of remote monitoring of patients with congestive heart failure ultimately leads to as much as a . The study also found that remote monitoring generated a return on investment of $3.30 on the dollar.

“According to research from the American Heart Association, roughly 5.1 million Americans have heart failure, and approximately half of the patients who experience the disease die within five years of diagnosis,” explains Doreen Salek, director of Population Health Business Intelligence at Geisinger Health Plan. “It is our hope that supplementing a strong case management program with telehealth solutions, as demonstrated in this study, can improve on those odds and ensure better outcomes for our aging population.”

Research also shows that telehealth technology can help improve clinical outcomes at lower costs for home healthcare. In a study by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School, virtual visits between skilled home healthcare nurses and chronically ill patients at home were found to improve patient outcomes at lower costs than traditional face-to-face home healthcare visits.

Another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and Purdue University concluded that, although the overall cost savings of telehealth versus home healthcare are “insignificant,” “early detection of health issues by primary care providers through home telemonitoring may lead to a more predictable average of annual hospital days and possibly the length of stay; however, this would require a larger study with greater numbers of patients.”

Implementing telehealth for positive healthcare outcomes, reduced spending and increased efficiency requires proper interoperability of systems and communications technology, as well as appropriate data storage and analytics capabilities. Once these are in place, telehealth can provide significant return on investment for healthcare providers, and traveling nurses can play an integral role in this process.