Sensing Technology Drives the Future of Medical Care
One of the most exciting and transformative healthcare trends is the acceleration of connected health technology. While people tend to be most familiar with telehealth in this category, the advanced tools and technology available now go much further and are clinically-proven to improve health outcomes and foster stronger connections between patients and their care teams.
As we look beyond COVID and start refocusing on chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, connected technology will support remote care and make a critical difference in patients’ ability to manage their disease. Connected health devices, for example, can monitor patient vitals and inform clinical decisions without the patient leaving home. These advancements offer us a real opportunity to improve patients’ quality of life. The next step is to ensure more patients and physicians are informed about and have access to the right technology.
Digitizing Disease: Implementing Strategies for Chronic Disease Management
There are many innovators and early adopters in the medical community working to develop and improve solutions that help patients live fuller, longer lives.
Take a chronic condition like diabetes. Over the past eight years, Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre technology has revolutionized diabetes care. Previously, patients had to follow a cumbersome monitoring process via finger sticks to check glucose levels. Now, people can use continuous glucose monitoring devices to see their glucose levels without finger sticks.1 The real-time feedback gives them the information they need to alter their lifestyle, food intake and activities.
Recent advancements in connected care have made similar monitoring possible for heart failure patients. Heart failure is a chronic disease that progresses in severity and can be punctuated by worsening symptoms that often lead to hospitalization, making it essential that patients are screened and treated early on to prevent it from reaching more advanced stages. However, a UCLA study found that less than 1% of people who have heart failure receive the kinds of medications and devices the guidelines say are necessary to manage the disease and keep it from progressing.
In my role as medical director? at Abbott, a global healthcare company, I have a front-row view of how device-related care can help patients and care providers manage heart failure. One of our technologies called CardioMEMS HF System can detect pulmonary artery pressure changes that can indicate worsening heart failure even before the patient starts to physically feel symptoms. The care team can remotely monitor for changes to the patient’s pressure, make the necessary therapy adjustments if needed and watch the effects of those adjustments in real-time. Prior to this technology, this kind of treatment would have required hospitalization.
Not only is this a real solution, but it’s one that empowers patients to manage their condition and collaborate with their physicians in a meaningful way. Improving patient outcomes relies on this type of engagement – patients are often the ones most invested in their disease and improving their condition, so we need to get them involved in the knowledge and actualization of their healthcare. Device manufacturers need to integrate this patient-centric step when developing new technologies. More and more manufacturers are integrating this patient-centric step when developing new technologies.
Meeting an Unmet Need: Improving Access to Care Through Remote Monitoring
In the past, healthcare professionals couldn’t get this type of data outside of a clinical setting. Now, they can get it virtually wherever patients are located, which is incredibly important for increasing access to care for all patients living with heart failure.
Being able to manage heart failure virtually became particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when fear and risk of in-person contact was top-of-mind. A large majority of people delayed routine primary care visits during the pandemic. In fact, a recent Abbott consumer survey found 20% of those with heart conditions are still delaying primary care visits as of late 2022.
Remote monitoring can also play a critical role in reducing health inequities by helping patients who experience barriers to care like transportation, anxieties with aspects of the healthcare system, and other social determinants of health. Both providers and industry need to acknowledge the many barriers marginalized and under-represented communities face. We cannot expect people to want to access care or medical therapies when it feels out of their reach. Remote monitoring and other connected technologies can help make care feel more attainable for more people.
As an industry, we’re still working to make that access a reality. Too many patients are still not offered important therapy options. There are a few reasons this is happening, including that many physicians aren’t aware of the proven clinical benefits of the different technologies, and patients often are not referred to a heart failure specialist who can recommend them before their disease progresses. Heart failure is a race against time: Educating physicians and nurse practitioners on the available therapies is critical to improving the care and access for those living with heart failure.
Embracing the Future: Adopting Advanced Technology and Tools
As we navigate long-term disruptions of COVID-19 and refocus on detection and care of chronic conditions, we are at an inflection point where increased use of connected health technology can help improve patient outcomes.
However, patients can only benefit from newer technology if physicians implement them, and if more patients have access to them. For heart failure, achieving earlier diagnoses begins with increased physician and patient awareness around the severity of the disease. It is also important to ensure cardiologists, primary care physicians and nurse practitioners who care for patients with heart failure understand the benefits of these tools and embrace the technology. By keeping the patient-physician relationship in mind, the medical device industry can continue to develop patient-centric technology that improves health outcomes.
The pandemic may have lent urgency to remote monitoring and other connected health technologies – and forced the healthcare system to pick up the pace – but we’ve been moving in this direction for many years. It’s time for even broader adoption of the intelligent innovations transforming our ability to deliver care so those with chronic conditions can live a full life.
Medical Source： Medical Product Outsourcing