Remote Monitoring Fails Early Tests in Improving Health Outcomes

There’s been an increasing focus on remote monitoring in the home health sector as of late, with multinational tech giant Philips (NYSE: PHG) among those betting on these types of devices. However, there’s little evidence, if any, showing they improve health outcomes, according to recent research published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics.

Internet-linked products and home health monitoring do have the potential to improve care for the elderly, but a review of existing evidence suggests some benefits are quite limited, if they exist at all. In fact, research found no evidence connecting smart homes and home health monitoring technologies to fall prevention, disability prediction and quality of life improvement, according to analysis of 48 relevant studies outlined in the journal.

Providers shouldn’t necessarily discount remote monitoring or smart home systems, but they should be aware of the lack of research into how well they work, said lead author Lili Lui, who works with the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

“If a family member would come to me and say, ‘I use the same system on my house for security as I do to monitor a family member who is living on the other side of the country,’ I would say use it, if it works for you,” Lui said.

Despite a flood of devices and systems in the market, few have been properly studied or vetted, Lui said, indicating a need for research that links health outcomes to technology. For now, a March study from the University of California, Los Angeles concluded health coaching telephone calls and telemonitoring combined didn’t reduce 180-day readmissions for health failure patients, according to HealthLeaders Media. In another recent study, researchers found no cost or utilization benefit for patients using mobile devices and cell phone systems to track hypertension, diabetes and cardiac arrhythmias.

The research conducted, though, doesn’t accurately portray a correlation between these systems’ use and health outcomes, as only 60% of the patients in the heart failure study fully participated, Joseph Kvedar, head of the Partners Center for Connected Health in Boston, told HealthLeaders Media. The traditional research model employed for the majority of clinical trials isn’t entirely conducive to this type of research, either.

“Remote monitoring requires a different way of evaluating effectiveness, which does not fit cleanly into our preexisting notions of clinical evidence,” Kvedar said. “For example, if a patient is not engaged with or using the remote monitoring intervention, should that technology be deemed unsuccessful in managing a chronic illness?”

Plus, the pace that technology is being developed and deployed is far faster than typical research grant cycles, meaning technology might be outdated by the time a study is planned and funded, Kvedar said.

Still, on a smaller scale, providers have been able to track the effectiveness of weaving remote patient care technology into their operations. University of Virginia Health System, for example, saw readmissions for Medicare patients with select conditions fall by 40% over two years with the use of Locus Health’s web-based technology.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt