Addressing the Chronic Disease Epidemic with Connected Health Technology

Jul 21, 2021 | Insights & Resources

The Cost of Chronic Disease

Chronic disease has taken a devastating toll on our nation. The leading cause of death and disability in the United States, chronic disease kills more than 1.7 million Americans every year. 1 Not only does it adversely impact the health of our country, but it also has an enormous burden on the economy. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, and cancer account for approximately 90% of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual health expenditures. By 2050, chronic disease costs are projected to hit a whopping $6 trillion in the U.S. unless more preemptive measures are taken to prevent this growing epidemic. 1-3

Chronic Disease in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic disease is defined as illnesses or conditions that persist over a long period of time that may require ongoing medical attention, and limit activities of daily living. Chronic conditions are not only disabling; they can be life-threatening, especially if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Individuals with chronic diseases are associated with higher mortality rates, increased use of health services, significantly higher fall rates, and five times the health care costs compared to those without chronic diseases. 4 Sometimes referred to as “frequent flyers,” people with chronic conditions are the greatest users of health care in the U.S., accounting for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits. 1

Today, more than half of all Americans have at least one chronic disease, and a quarter of all adults suffer from two or more. These numbers are expected to increase dramatically as obesity rates climb and the nation’s baby boomer generation grows older. 5 However, many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed, or alleviated through simple lifestyle changes, early detection, improved diet, exercise, and treatment therapy.1

Connected Health Technology and Chronic Disease Management

Preventing chronic diseases or managing symptoms when prevention is not possible are shown to reduce care costs and deliver better patient outcomes.7 Traditional prevention methods such as improving diet, exercising, and quitting smoking are essential to lowering the prevalence of disease. However, in many cases, these methods alone are not enough.

Connected health technologies such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) play an essential role in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. These solutions are used to effectively monitor a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular heart failure, COPD, HTN-stroke, pneumonia, sepsis and post-surgical cases. Providers are able to remotely monitor, review, and analyze their patients’ conditions while receiving actionable data to triage and treat patients earlier, enabling more comprehensive care.

RPM offers providers insights into their patient’s daily lives and habits while enabling patients to self-manage their health. For example, a physician can monitor fluctuations in blood glucose levels to help understand when a patient’s diabetes is not being appropriately controlled. If necessary, the provider can intervene and determine the best course of treatment before a costly event takes place.

Research published by the American Heart Association recognizes that RPM can serve as a vital conduit for improving hypertension control and reducing the economic burden that stems from the costly hospitalizations and events related to hypertension. The study found that RPM substantially reduces systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) compared to usual care and self-monitoring alone. 7

RPM has also been shown to address common issues that occur within the office-based setting, such as getting an accurate blood pressure reading. Often referred to as the “white-coat syndrome,” a significant number of patients experience elevated blood pressure when in a clinical setting, which can make hypertension more challenging to diagnose. 7 RPM addresses these challenges by providing:

  • Better Monitoring of Chronic Conditions: Frequent blood pressure monitoring over time provides a more accurate assessment of a patient’s blood pressure and risk of potential cardiovascular events.
  • Earlier Interventions: Access to patients’ daily blood pressure readings helps providers better assess and adjust treatment, as necessary.
  • More Comprehensive Treatment: RPM can signal the effectiveness of treatment and prompt earlier changes in therapy to get blood pressure under control faster.7

Multiple studies have demonstrated how RPM programs can help effectively manage chronic conditions through the regular, ongoing measurement of physiologic data, feedback, and communication. 7-8  With a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health over time, RPM programs result in better chronic care management and fewer hospitalizations. A report from KLAS research published in Becker’s Hospital Review found that RPM was highly successful in reducing hospitalizations by as much as 38%. RPM was also associated with a 25% increase in patient satisfaction, a 25% reduction in ER visits, a 25% reduction in readmissions, and a 17% reduction in costs. 7

Healthcare providers and organizations with RPM programs are not only seeing improved patient outcomes and reduced hospital readmissions, but they are also experiencing increased patient adherence and higher engagement which translates to better quality metrics. As the healthcare industry continues to face increasing rates of chronic disease and soaring costs of care, connected health technologies such as RPM are paving the way for the future of healthcare delivery, and they may be the best prescription for this growing epidemic.

 

References:
1. GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf (fightchronicdisease.org)
2. Heart Disease and Stroke (cdc.gov)
3. Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases | CDC
4. Chronic Disease in the United States: A Worsening Health and Economic Crisis – AAF (americanactionforum.org)
5. About Chronic Diseases | CDC
6. Remote Patient Monitoring 2018 | KLAS Report (klasresearch.com)
7. remote-patient-monitoring-guidance-2019.pdf (heart.org)
8. Telehealth Interventions to Improve Chronic Disease | cdc.gov

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