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Improved Quality of Life trough Telemonitoring


 

Vital signs are going to be collected while being at home or on the way reducing expensive on-site consultations.

Telemedicine is a prime example for technology convergence. A fully integrated fitness- and health center worn like a wristwatch or as lifestyle shirt directly on one’s skin, which is connected to personal health advisor or a doctor via wireless network technology, is still a vision. Nonetheless, industry experts at the German Verband der Elektrotechnik (VDE) are optimistic. They refer to forecasts by the IT analyst company Frost & Sullivan, according to which particularly the field of telemonitoring should grow rapidly. According to them, the market for remote monitoring of patients with cardiovascular diseases will show annual growth rates of 20 percent and more.
  Lead market cardiac insufficiency
About 15 percent of all people above the age of 65 suffer from chronic cardiac insufficiency. In Germany alone, between 100,000 and 200,000 new cases are registered annually. Costs accrue to € 5 to 7 billion a year. With these patients telemetric remote supervision — which mainly means monitoring weight — can reduce the frequency of hospitalization, as Reinhard Rychlik from Institut für Empirische Gesundheitsökonomie in Burscheid, Germany, has been able to prove. "In the telemedicine project Zertiva, which was carried out by Techniker Krankenkasse, a German statutory health insurance organization, total costs per patient adjusted for effectiveness were € 6,391 in half a year if standard therapy was applied and € 3,065 in case of telemedical supervision." said Rychlik. The difference of about € 3,000 could be clearly attributed to a smaller number of hospitalizations. "With persons who are surveyed closely, problems become apparent at an earlier stage and targeted prevention measures can be taken."
  Saver life for the elderly
Together with the nursing service organization Caritas and the regional association of company health insurance funds, BKK, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Zentrum für Telematik im Gesundheitswesen (ZTG) is starting a showcase-project in Essen, Germany. With 16 high-maintenance elderly persons motion detectors are installed to recognize tumbling. Additionally, electronic systems are introduced to survey application of medication.
However, the US has taken the lead in introducing "Smart Homes" for the elderly. In a nursing home in Portland, Oregon, more than 1,000 motion sensors have been installed. Each inhabitant has his own wireless chip. If dementia patients loose orientation nursing staff can check on them. Sensors installed in mattresses provide further information, whether an inhabitant sleeps at night, frequently gets up, or has been fallen out of bed just that moment.
In particular, assisted living could benefit from telemedicine. Data of mobile diagnostics devices for monitoring blood sugar level and blood pressure and of motion sensors, which are carried along by high-risk patients, could be transmitted to a central receiving station. The same moment analysis of these data show critical conditions, support staff or a doctor will be alarmed automatically. In consequence, safety level of each individual person is improved while keeping a high degree of autonomy. For the operating company these measures allow for optimal utilization of their resources.
Improved Quality of Life trough Telemonitoring   Market
Although home health products and services was only a US$ 461 million market worldwide in 2005, it is expected to more than quadruple in the next six years, reaching US$ 2.1 billion in 2010, according to Parks Associates, a consulting company. European market for telemonitoring was about € 120 million in 2005. Forecasts for 2010 predict € 350 million.
Factors driving the home health products and services market are:

  • Availability of broadband connections in the home
  • Increasing data transfer rate of cellular networks
  • Demographic change towards an aging population, many of whom will develop chronic diseases as they grow old
  • A predicted shortage of doctors and nurses over the next two decades
  • Growing cost pressure on public health systems
Cooperation needed
Telemedicine requires interdisciplinary effort. Manufacturers of diagnostic equipment and sensors are to equip their systems with appropriate wireless modules. It will be crucial that the latter can make up a safe network for reliable transfer of personal data. Integrating it into a working whole, software experts are needed and, in particular, experienced health professionals. To introduce it to the marketplace the concept has to find favor with nursing service providers, which are adept in the use of technology. Finally the question of costs allocation and whether European statutory health insurances will be able to agree to take charge of at least part of the costs of system setup will be decisive in to which extent the promises of telemedicine will materialize.
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