In my last post, I covered how 2015 will be a watershed year for wearable devices—and not just for fancy toys and fitness trackers. Wearable devices are also poised to impact how we manage chronic disease.
New technology is beginning to build advanced networks of simple devices to provide care teams with real-time biometric reports, improving remote patient monitoring systems.
In 2013, Softworks Group began a pilot project using biometric devices to monitor and manage congestive heart failure. Today, I’ll share with you some of what we’ve learned so far. In a later post, I’ll tell you about the new horizons for our biometric devices project.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure affects over 6 million persons in North America and is the leading cause of hospitalization for persons over the age of 65. It is responsible for more hospitalizations than all cases of cancer combined.
Congestive heart failure symptoms often develop gradually, and many respiratory symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions. This poses difficulty for accurately diagnosing heart failure.
Misdiagnosis creates delays in the development of effective care plans and contributes to the unnecessary use of drugs such as antibiotics, which can have further adverse affects on patient and population health.
The remote monitoring potential of wearable biometric devices promises to provide care teams with real-time access to the patient data that needed to accurately diagnose and effectively manage congestive heart failure.
What We Learned About Biometrics
We originally suspected that continuous monitoring—like the kind offered by consumer fitness trackers—would benefit care teams by providing the most information. However, our research revealed that physicians are seeking quality not quantity in patient biometrics.
Wearable biometric devices providing continuous monitoring are practical for care teams when they are used for particular time periods and connected to synoptic reporting software that enables them to track the specific biometrics appropriate to individual cases.
Continuous monitoring is most useful upon initial discharge, when the risk of complications is highest. For patients with congestive heart failure, a biosensing device could be worn full-time in the days immediately following hopsital discharge.
In the initial discharge period, biometric data can help confirm diagnostic accuracy. By tracking and comparing the relationship between heart rate, core temperature and breathing rate, care teams will be able to look for the kind of correlated rise that indicates respiratory symptoms actually caused by pneumonia, not heart disease. If this were the case, real-time biometric reports would enable care teams to catch the initial misdiagnosis much sooner than with periodic office visits alone.
Conversely, this kind of biomonitoring can enable care teams to confirm a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and more effectively design a care plan. The initial discharge period is a critical time for patients to build healthy habits. Remote patient monitoring using algorithmic reporting can help care teams better understands if lifestyle changes are not working for patients. Moreover, remote monitoring can help care teams assess the efficacy of drug prescriptions, helping to prevent adverse drug events.
The more efficiently care teams can assess initial post-discharge data, the more efficiently they can design effective care plans that will be meaningful to patients’ long-term outcomes.
Biometrics Beyond Wearables
While wearable biometric devices promise to provide increased efficiency and efficacy in chronic disease management, simpler technologies are already helping to track patient biometrics and measure medical outcomes.
One example is a Bluetooth bathroom scale. Like wearable devices, many people already use this technology for fitness tracking, but it can also be useful for managing chronic disease.
For a person living with congestive heart failure, their heart often can not pump blood well enough to effectively distribute the fluids in their body. This can lead swelling in the legs and feet, or to cardiogenic pulmonary edema, a potentially fatal accumulation of fluid in the lungs. A warning sign of excess fluid accumulation is rapid weight gain.
An effective way to monitor patient weight trends could be to connect a home scale to their care team’s synoptic reporting software.
When care teams are able to remotely monitor patient weight trends—and configure algorithmic alerts—they can reform care plans and adjust medications prior to patient hospitalization, towards ultimately reducing the number of hospitalizations due to congestive heart failure.
For more information on the progress of our research, or to connect your practice to future research, contact our CEO Tim Edlund.