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Health apps improve patient outcomes, lower hospital costs

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Guest post by Bill Marcus

A friend of mine was recently fitted with a Wi-Fi-enabled sleep apnea monitor that continuously reports the number of her sleep apnea events to her healthcare provider. She gets automated phone calls telling her that she's doing well. The calls save her trips to the doctor. They also save the doctor time. The technology improves her satisfaction with her care, increases compliance, and will ultimately reduce costs for her healthcare provider.

She is part of the growing market in which the combination of monitoring devices, health applications, and data analytics is improving patient outcomes, enabling healthcare providers to reduce costs and raise revenues.

Improving health outcomes

Remote patient monitoring devices, such as Apple's HealthKit, advance outcomes by enhancing compliance, making it possible for doctors to spot problems quickly and givinghealth_apps_improve_patient_outcomes EN.jpg them objective information about their patients. They no longer need to rely solely on what the patient says.

These smartphone health applications can remotely alert a patient, primary care physician, nurse, or family member of trends in a patient's body before the patient has to visit a physician's office to get attention, says David Lee Scher, MD, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, cardiologist and digital health consultant.

Let's say, for example, that a hospitalized patient starts running a temperature after taking epinephrine or Benadryl, indicating a possible allergic reaction, says Scher. What if, as a result of a merging of the technologies of Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, a message is sent to a nurse or physician at the time of the patient's next scheduled dose, raising the question: Is the patient allergic to these medications?

A $6.5 billion industry

Hospitals will invest a lot in health applications and devices over the next couple of years. The start-up funding of telehealth wearable technology is expected to almost double in the United States, with revenues growing from $3.5 billion in 2014 to $6.5 billion by the end of 2017, according to a report by Accenture.

And there's good reason for that growth: according to a McKinsey report, "remote monitoring could create as much as $1.1 trillion a year in value by 2025 simply by improving the health of chronic-disease patients."

This technology can also help hospitals adapt to new reimbursement and payment models, according to Scott Overholt, managing director for healthcare markets at Philadelphia-based consulting firm LiquidHub Inc., in a recent column. "As we experience a shift from fee-for-service compensation to value- and outcomes-based patient care, providers will benefit from increased payments from payers due to better patient outcomes and fewer relapses and readmissions," he says.

One obstacle to deploying Big Data analytics platforms to handle the data coming in from wearables is that in the past it required highly specialized and expensive expertise, and there's a shortage of data scientists. Big Data platforms can help hospitals and other healthcare providers deploy these systems with far less dependence on highest-level data scientists.

Another benefit is that these automated platforms can allow each medical professional to handle more patients, which will directly benefit an organization's bottom line.

Health applications cutting costs

According to HIT Consultant, wearable technology could drop hospital costs by as much as 16 percent over the course of five years, and Northwestern University's School of Professional Studies reports that remote patient monitoring technologies could save our healthcare system $200 billion over the next 25 years.

For example, through telehealth and home monitoring technologies, the Arizona-based Banner Health, a not-for-profit 29-hospital chain, reduced unnecessary hospitalizations by 45 percent through an increase of patient home care. In this way, Banner cut their service costs by a third.

Hospitals don't have to build all this infrastructure from scratch. Big Data solutions can help healthcare providers get up and running with health applications. "It's this logical layer on top of the Big Data which is really going to change healthcare, and that really is the holy grail, if you will, for this data to be useful," Scher says.

To learn more about how to reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction with healthcare analytics, see Hewlett Packard Enterprise's software solutions for healthcare and life sciences.

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