For many in healthcare, the answer to tackling chronic conditions lies in remote patient monitoring, explains Qualcomm Life’s Laurent Vandebrouck in an exclusive interview with Internet of Business.
Here’s the good news: in Europe, we’re all living longer. Over the past 50 years or so, life expectancy has increased by about 10 years for both men and women in the 28 countries of the European Union, to reach an average of 80.9 years – slightly more for women (83.6 years) and slightly less for men (78.1 years).
The flipside is that, as we age, we’re more likely to experience chronic health conditions – illnesses that can be controlled, but not cured. These include high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, for example.
Chronic illness places a terrific strain on healthcare systems, says Laurent Vandebrouck, managing director, Europe, at connected healthcare leader, Qualcomm Life. In many countries, managing chronic illness accounts for as much as 80 percent of healthcare spending, he says.
So for many clinicians, healthcare providers and insurance companies, the answer increasingly lies in remote patient monitoring, or RPM, using the latest smart, connected medical devices. These might include medication dispensers, blood pressure monitors and blood glucose meters, for example.
This approach gives patients the benefits of being able to live independently, in their own homes, while their doctors continue to keep a close eye on their conditions.
Monitoring by exception
“It’s about monitoring by exception,” Vandebrouck explains. When a doctor or nurse using RPM is alerted to an issue with a specific patient, they can call that patient in for an appointment. “It enables healthcare providers, clinicians and insurers to focus on those patients who really need care, when they need it, with a view to reducing hospital readmissions,” he says.
Qualcomm Life’s role in this is two-fold. First, the company works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies on the development of the connected medical devices used in RPM programs, providing them with reference architectures and the wireless communications technologies that their devices will require to collect and transmit data.
Second, it provides the connectivity gateways in patient’s homes that collect, encrypt and transmit data from medical devices to Qualcomm Life’s cloud-based 2net Platform and to virtually any third party cloud-based system, where it can be accessed by authorized medical device manufacturers, healthcare providers, insurers and pharmaceutical companies. It’s through these cloud-based remote monitoring systems that a care provider might be alerted, for example, if a patient with diabetes had experienced a string of high blood glucose readings.
Qualcomm Life’s solutions extend across the care continuum, with connectivity platforms for in the hospital, at the patient’s home and everywhere in between. Last month, for example, Qualcomm Life announced that its Capsule solution will be used to connect and integrate medical device data at Hospital Unimed Recife III, a leading hospital system in Brazil. And in Europe, the company announced last year that its 2net Platform will serve as the medical device connectivity solution for Philips HealthSuite, the cloud-enabled health ecosystem of devices, apps and digital tools from Dutch technology company Philips. Philips selected Qualcomm Life to power all of the medical device connectivity for its remote care and home care solutions and services, such as Philips Respironics, and Philips Hospital to Home.
A growing market
The rise in chronic conditions, often against a backdrop of constraints on healthcare budgets and hospital beds, means that RPM simply makes good sense for many organizations in the sector, says Vandebrouck. “There’s no escape here: healthcare providers are under great pressure to use their resources wisely, to reduce the number of readmissions and still deliver the best patient outcomes. These are the challenges that Qualcomm Life, as a technology enabler, is helping them tackle,” he says.
Many are already stepping up to the challenge and others will follow. According to a recent report from research company Berg Insight, the number of remotely monitored patients worldwide grew by 44 percent to 7.1 million in 2016 as the market entered a growth phase fuelled by rising market acceptance. That figure is set to rise to 50.2 million by 2021, the company’s analysts reckon.