New eHealth Gadgets Aim to Better Monitor Patients
The health care industry is "on the cusp of a staggering change," with new technological innovations poised to bring about a "digital transformation of the U.S. medical system," according to Washington Post staff reporter Craig Stoltz. Stoltz attended last month's eHealthcare World symposium, which showcased a number of new inventions that could help improve care and cut costs. Many of the products focused on "electronic disease management," using wireless communications and computer technology to better monitor patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure. One such invention, called Lifeshirt, resembles a tank top and records 40 different clinical statistics about the wearer, which can then be transmitted to a doctor or other diagnostician. With an estimated 70% of health care dollars spent on chronic illnesses, these inventions could help providers better manage patients and reduce costly doctor and emergency room visits. Electronic disease management represents "the most promising trend" for ehealth in the near future, Stoltz says.
While Web-based health care technologies will "eventually help reshape health care," Stoltz says several "underlying difficulties" remain. For example, physicians must "agree on and learn to use" digital devices "at the point of care," such as in exam rooms. Privacy issues, including safeguarding patient medical records and physician email, need to be resolved. In addition to implementation obstacles, financing the digital revolution also will be difficult given that many health care fields have "money trouble." Stoltz says that it may be employers who "ultimately take the lead in supporting and funding ehealth initiatives" because they have an interest in seeing employees remain healthy. Despite the variety and advancement of new ehealth innovations, Stoltz concludes that there are "plenty of bumps to come along that vast digital highway" (Stoltz, Washington Post, 1/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.