Managing Chronic Conditions With Regular Measurement of Health Signals

For people with chronic health conditions, life can seem like one trip to the hospital after another. In fact, patients with conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes consume an outsize share of all health resources, often without ever getting their issues fully under control.

Some of the most expensive events of all in the lives of those with chronic conditions are visits to the emergency room. When vital signs and other measures exceed safe levels, there is often no choice but to rush a patient to this most expensive of all sources of medical care. When that happens, insurers, and by extension their other clients, end up footing an especially large bill.

One of the most prominent thrusts in today's health care improvement environment, then, is the quest to reduce readmissions among those with chronic health conditions. When a single hospital visit can cost tens of thousands of dollars, even preventing one of these from being needed is often a major victory.


Fortunately, there are promising ways of accomplishing this. The famous research center Brookings Recognizes telehealth, for example, as an especially effective way of pursuing cost-conscious utilization management, in addition to being a boon to patients themselves.

The basic idea behind the technology is a simple but profound one. Because so many readmission events results from lapses in patient diligence and personal responsibility, the system seeks to work health providers more productively into the daily lives of patients. A reliable piece of measuring equipment keeps on top of figures like blood pressure, blood sugar level, and others, sending the information regularly to health experts for analysis.

What this approach does, then, is allow for the creation of warning signals long before a patient's health reaches critical condition. Being forewarned in this way, doctors and others can help to get a patient back on track quickly, diverting them from a path that would otherwise probably end in the emergency room. The system can help to cut costs in this important way, then, and it also helps to keep patients healthier over the long term.


Another important benefit of the system is that it can be of great use to those concerned with population health management. Because it provides such a steady stream of individual data points, the system can help to fill in the larger picture about how a broad group of patients is faring and consuming medical resources. At a number of distinct levels, then, this technology can be of great help to those with chronic medical conditions.

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