Can Technology Help Better Address the Needs of Immobile Patients?

Revisiting the approach to care for non-mobile patients

Active, healthy consumers are embracing fitness trackers and other wearables to track wellness, and according to a 2014 study from Ipsos, 4 in 10 Americans are familiar with wearable devices or currently own one. However, these additions are not yet helping meet the very real medical needs of patients who would benefit most. The rise of non-invasive and wireless technologies provides an opportunity to revisit our approach to care for non-mobile patients, and use these technologies to better address their different set of needs.

Enhanced Connectivity Improves Coordinated Care

For wearable devices, also known as connected sensors, to have a real impact for patients with serious medical conditions, we need to focus on the connection between personal health data and the wealth of clinical data generated by professional healthcare devices, hospital information systems and caregivers. This is particularly true for non-mobile patients, who typically have larger care teams consisting of home health aides, specialists, primary care physicians and potentially even DMEs who need to be kept apprised of a patient’s condition. Wearables and other mobile technologies can provide teams with up-to-date information supporting coordinated care. The coordinated care team can use analytics to monitor for changes in patient vital signs and other factors to advise on care decisions. This kind of care leads has potential to improve patient outcomes, including reduced readmissions and decreased mortality rates.

Deeper clinical insights and an understanding of clinical procedures, processes, outcomes and cost drivers in the hospital (and beyond) are also critical to ensure connected sensors are keeping up with the ever-changing needs of the healthcare industry. Successful connected sensor technologies must integrate useful data throughout the patient journey across the health continuum, from healthy living to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care at home.

Minimizing Complications, Maximizing Patient Safety

Improving patient safety continues to be a top priority and challenge for all healthcare stakeholders, and as patient care continues to expand beyond the hospital and into the home, patient safety is not just an issue within the hospital’s four walls. Healthcare providers are looking to technology and remote monitoring solutions to help reduce readmission rates and address each population’s unique set of health concerns. While 1 in 25 patients in the United States suffers from hospital acquired infections, patients with limited mobility face a different set of issues, including muscle atrophy, joint stiffness and pain, poor circulation and pressure sores, among others.

As the industry continues to shift towards unobtrusive, 24-hour monitoring options, healthcare providers are able to capture patient vitals and other data outside of routine checkups. While many of the complications often associated with immobilizing conditions can become life-threatening, with early detection and treatment, further issues may be prevented. For example, sepsis, a potentially whole-body inflammation caused by severe infection, is a major issue that can be detected with non-invasive and wireless technologies. More than one million patients in the United States each year are treated for sepsis, and while medical strides have been taken towards effective treatments, if a patient goes into septic shock, mortality rates remain high. With advanced monitoring solutions, care teams can use data to predict patient deterioration and determine a treatment plan, improving care for the non-mobile patient.

Quality of Life Breaks Free of the Hospital Bedside

In this day and age, patients don’t always need to be in a hospital to receive the treatment they require; this change is a positive development for non-mobile patients. Patient care has moved well beyond the hospital bedside, reaching into the home and wherever the patient is.

Instead of frequent doctors’ visits or trips to the hospital, immobile patients can wear connected sensors to enable regular monitoring of vital signs. Not only can this support the patient’s chances of a full and speedy recovery, but more consistent monitoring also prevents patient readmissions, a significant improvement as studies across the United States show 15-25% of people will be readmitted within 30 days following discharge, and many of these readmissions are preventable. With connected sensors, immobile patients may be able to remain home instead of in a hospital bed, all while staying connected with their care team. With this kind of enhanced monitoring, caregivers are able to provide better quality care while improving the patient’s quality of life.

What’s Next?

For the non-mobile population, non-invasive and wireless technologies can impact quality of life. But to deliver a meaningful application, wearables must be combined with software solutions and services, deep clinical knowledge and smart algorithms to help deliver actionable insights that help both patients and clinicians make more informed decisions about care. Developing any applicable technology in healthcare requires a deep understanding of clinician workflow and processes, but aiming to develop new technologies and enhance existing technologies to benefit the non-mobile population requires bringing the clinician’s perspective in from the beginning, especially as more and more monitoring moves beyond the patient bedside and into the home.

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