Connected care is a multi-dimensional domain

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pinpointing exactly what “connected care” is can be a tricky exercise. In a broad context, it can be identified as a platform that enables electronic communications between patients and providers, facilitating the transmission of health data for monitoring and analysis.

But beyond that, connected care incorporates a wide range of dimensions that include different media, functions and purposes, said Michael Cantor, MD, chief medical officer for Hartford, Conn.-based CareCentrix.

“What is connected care? It depends on who you ask,” he said. “Like managed care, it has several different components, like remote patient monitoring, various wearable and stationary devices, monitors and sensors, predictive modeling and analytics. Then there is the issue of who is involved with handling and interpreting the data.”

Gregory Dench, director of connected sleep devices for San Diego-based ResMed, sees connected care as a healthcare management model that gives providers a direct link to patients and their health data via technologies that allow for electronic monitoring and communication.

“It eases the burden on providers by creating a seamless flow of reliable information, allowing HMEs to identify those who need immediate attention and prioritize those patients who are acutely in need of support,” he said. “Another benefit is that connected care has been shown to improve both patient adherence to therapy and, in turn, reimbursement revenues for HMEs.”

Because more patients and providers are looking for connected technologies to be a component of their therapy, Dench says ResMed became the first medical technology manufacturer to cloud-connect its entire latest line of CPAP machines, the Air10 series, which has sold more than nine million units so far.

While the connected care landscape is deep and wide, its applications are having profound impact on the HME industry, said Tim Murphy, business leader of new business solutions of Sleep and Respiratory Care at Philips.

“Connectivity is a crucial step in enhancing patient experience, improving population health and reducing costs while decreasing clinician burnout,” he said. “The intention of connected care is to collect information that provides insight into the patient condition and need. This information can then be used in discrete settings to respond to patient needs. This enables care teams, including those serving patients in their homes, with the ability to direct resources to those patients who are in need.”

As part of the multi-dimensional facets of connected care, Ogden, Utah-based Freeus focuses on wearable technologies that keep patients connected with family members, clinicians and other caregivers.

“HME providers can facilitate access to connected care by offering monitored mobile medical alert devices to patients,” said COO Brock Winzeler. “With monitored mobile medical alerts, patients can live independently and have access to care when and where they need it, with the press of a button.”

Mobile medical alerts can help keep those involved in the patient’s care updated when family members, nurses and clinicians are included as emergency contacts or case managers in the medical alert account.

Emergency contacts can be notified during and after patient incidents, and case managers can receive detailed information about emergency events.

Instilling connectivity

HME providers are becoming increasingly connected to connected care because home medical technology has more connectivity functionality, Candor said, using home sleep testing as an example.

“When a patient has obstructive sleep apnea, the PAP is equipped with the capability to upload specific data, such as how long the patient is on the device, breathing rates and other pertinent information that the respiratory therapist can monitor and review,” he said. “This is not the future, but what is happening today.”

HME providers, as purveyors of these devices -- some have to be prescribed -- empower patient self-management because “a lot people want this info for themselves,” Candor said.

“Clinicians take care of the patient and it’s up to the patient to be a partner in care,” he said. “They need to be empowered to manage their diseases. It's really about teaching patients what it means to have a disease and what enables them to stay home and avoid the hospitals.”

Fostering adherence

Numerous recent studies show that connected care – particularly remote and self-monitoring tools – not only create efficiencies for the clinician, but also support better clinical results for patients, Dench said.

“Of patients remotely monitored via AirView, ResMed’s provider-facing connected platform, 75% were adherent on therapy compared to 50% for those without cloud-connected PAP devices,” he said. “That number jumps even higher when patients engage with their own health data -- a study published in CHEST found that 87% of patients were adherent when remote monitored and self-monitored by using ResMed's patient engagement app, myAir. The utilization of connected technologies has proven helpful in encouraging patients to stick to their life-saving therapies, making the treatment process as seamless as possible and improving outcomes for the patients themselves.”

Future potential

Connected care will continue to become more mobile going forward, accommodating the needs of clinicians, caregivers and patients, Winzeler said.

“Patients are demanding mobile care options that meet them where they are, and connected care that integrates mobile medical alerts facilitates that,” he said. “With fast access to assistance at home and away, and the ability for clinicians and loved ones involved in the patient’s care to receive updates about incidents, care is no longer limited to a single location or provider.”

Technology will also continue to keep pace with the demand for better data delivered in a more timely fashion, Dench said.

“One significant benefit of connected care is that the vast amount of data being captured by connected technologies can be de-identified and analyzed in just weeks or months to uncover valuable insights at the population level that can change the way we think about and treat disease,” he said.