Telemonitoring savings are not significant, study finds

Despite new research suggesting that a majority of U.S. adults – 56% – now embrace using a connected device at home to monitor health and share data with caregivers, telemedicine may not be the savior some forecast it to be, according to a study by Mayo Clinic and Purdue University scientists.

The 12-month research project involved 205 older adults with multiple chronic conditions, who were randomly divided into two groups. The usual care group had access to office visits, phone services and home healthcare, while the telemedicine group transmitted data from vital sign devices and other kinds of monitoring devices for weight, glucose and blood pressure to clinicians.

While the telemedicine group did have less variability in their cost of care and a lower total 30-day readmission cost than the usual care group overall, the study found no significant differences in the mean total cost between the two treatment groups. Researchers also found little differences in the number of inpatient and emergency department visits or in-hospital days between patients in the two groups.

The results were published in the January issue of Telemedicine and eHealth.

The growing elderly population is among several factors expected to drive the U.S. market for patient monitoring technology to more than $5.1 billion by 2020, according to a 2014 report by iData Research. 

But Takahashi and his team are not the first to find that telemonitoring seems to fall flat when it comes to cost savings. A 2013 British government concluded that telehealth methods did not improve the quality of life and were not cost effective among people with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes. 

In 2007, however, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found positive news for home telemonitoring services, concluding they were efficacious for keeping tabs on chronic diseases because they are able to produce accurate and reliable data.

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