By Terry Duesterhoeft
Chief Product and Commercial Officer – EarlySense
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference is always a great opportunity to put your finger on the pulse of what’s new in healthcare technology solutions.
This year was no exception. Along with the speculation about how the pandemic will ultimately change healthcare, there were a series of recurring themes in product and service solutions, some of them new and some older themes with renewed life: Telehealth. Virtual Care. Hospital @ Home. Remote patient monitoring (RPM). Big data. AI-driven proactive insights.
But underpinning many of these, and core to enabling their ultimate success in addressing the issues associated with long-term patient care, is a topic healthcare providers and technologists alike are frustrated by.
And that’s patient compliance.
Almost every digital health solution on the market today relies on patients to participate in some way in the process, from charging devices to remembering to use the devices to providing information back to their healthcare provider to finding creative ways to keep the individual engaged in the process.
Even the most engaged patients will occasionally forget or make mistakes under the weight of those conditions, which are so subject to human error. And that’s what accounts for the fact that among traditional high-risk RPM users, we see compliance rates of only about 47%.
With rates like that, we’ll never realize the promise of virtual care that patients, providers and payers are hoping for from remote or in-home solutions, and we’ll see a continuation of the complications related to chronic conditions and re-hospitalizations.
In fact, in a study conducted by Anon, the risk of hospitalization was more than double in patients with diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, or congestive heart failure who were non adherent to prescribed therapies compared with a general population. And studies conducted among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients have shown that poor adherence to drug therapy and disease management leads to emergency hospitalization.
It is clear that if a patient or individual won’t comply with RPM or other virtual solutions, new solutions won’t be able to gather the critical data needed to manage an individual’s health.
So what’s the solution to the issue of patient compliance?
We need solutions that ultimately don’t interrupt what a patient does in their everyday life and fall into the backdrop of what they already do. We need solutions that allow them to simply go about the daily business of living, but monitoring them behind the scenes, giving them the chance to forget they’re patients.
After walking the floor and talking to customers, partners and friends in the industry, one thing jumps out: the healthcare technology industry is (for perhaps the first time) really taking this issue of compliance seriously. As a result, we’re seeing more passive or contact-free solutions that use sensors to gather data in a way the patient or end-user isn’t even aware of.
When we gather data through passive means – such as smart watches, wearable patches, wearable sensors, or even better contact free means such as smart sensors placed strategically around living space – we amp up compliance rates, because the user doesn’t have to engage with the solution for it to work as intended. It effectively removes the human error and need for engagement parts of the equation.
At HIMSS, just one collaboration that illustrates this was a new partnership between LifeScan, a blood glucose monitoring company, and Fitbit, which offers people with diabetes the combined benefit of blending FitBit’s passive monitoring capabilities with LifeScan’s educational approach to offer a more complete view of how lifestyle factors like daily activity, nutrition and sleep can impact blood glucose levels.
And at EarlySense, we know that passive, contact free solutions can work to generate the kind of information needed for virtual care and to proactively make ongoing care decisions. We’ve been working with healthcare providers for almost a decade and a half now to use data generated passively as part of patients’ ongoing care plans.
The passive aspect of our solution – which utilizes a sensor placed under the patient’s mattress to continuously gather data without contact or even involving the patient in the process – has generated data that’s been used to successfully identify things such as the onset of specific conditions and early warning of deterioration of a patient’s health.
After a week at HIMSS, it’s clear that passive solutions are one way the industry is looking to address patient compliance – and I expect we’ll continue to see more solutions evolve to leverage it as a core feature.