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Reforming Delivery
How To Win on Health Care

File this story under how technology can make health care cheaper: the WSJ profiles the rise of remote monitoring technologies that allow doctors to get data on patients without requiring the patient to visit a hospital or a doctor’s office in person. By equipping their patients with sensors that register blood pressure and other important vitals, doctors can adjust the medication for their patients or otherwise manage their care more efficiently. One program has a particularly impressive record:

Vidant, which started its program in February 2012, has 600 to 700 patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes and high blood pressure participating in its remote-monitoring program at any one time. Each receives various devices to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, along with a transmitting device to send the data via cellular service to Vidant.

Hospital admissions for these patients fell 74% in 2013 and dropped 54% during the first eight months of last year from the same period a year earlier, to 192, according to Dr. Rumans.

Remote-monitoring programs tend to focus on serious, chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, which typically have resulted in repeat hospitalizations. Readmissions for these conditions are a major health-care expense, and Medicare has begun penalizing hospital systems with high readmission rates.

As that last paragraph notes, chronic conditions are a huge driver of health care costs in America. As the CDC puts it, “The majority of US health care and economic costs associated with medical conditions are for the costs of chronic diseases and conditions and associated health risk behaviors.” Being able to manage these conditions in the most cost-effective way is key to bringing down costs. If remote monitoring can help us do that, it could do more to make U.S. health care cheaper than many other federal, technocratic cost-saving proposals on offer right now.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Wouldn’t doctors have to emerge from the 19th century and embrace technology, of which there’s scant evidence, for this to work?

  • FriendlyGoat

    I’m not against bringing costs down, but we do have to admit that people who have their chronic conditions avoided or under control tend to die later and because of something else, don’t they? No, I’m not trying to encourage people to hurry up and die, but do we really know that medical costs are less for late-life cancer, say, than earlier-life heart problems? Is it possible that doctors may start pushing us to pay them for (supposedly) controlling weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.——when pundits think that they are rather dragging the doctors along to this idea? Who is soliciting who? And how much “savings” is there to get?

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