Whether the place you live has a privatized medical system or a publicly funded one, one thing is for sure.....the cost of healthcare where you live is going to go up.  There are a few factors causing this – some that can be prevented and some that are inevitable:

- As you age, no matter how healthy you may be, your need for healthcare goes up.  In most parts of the developed world, the average age of the population is older than it ever has been and the demographics are not working in our favor.

- Our diet is not as good as it could be, evidenced by the skyrocketing rate of various ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.

- As a society, we are exercising less and less – definitely exercising less than we need to maintain optimal health.

While there are many factors beyond its control, there is no doubt that the widespread use of M2M solutions can help to curb some of the expected growth in medical costs.  Here are some of the ways that it can help...

Keep people at home for longer

At some point, most of us will need full-time medical care as we will simply be unable to look after ourselves.  However, many seniors (and others with disabilities) can function quite well in their homes with the help of a little technology.  M2M solutions – such as automatic reporting of biometric readings (sugar level, blood pressure, etc), monitoring when that medication was taken and lack-of-motion/panic alarm monitoring – can help provide the little extra assistance that seniors may need to stay home longer.  This will dramatically reduce the need for expensive hospital stays.

Reducing the need for unnecessary tests

In many areas, there are several tests that are done strictly for the medical practitioner to "cover their own backside".  As well, there are many tests that are done to "rule out" possible issues, many of which are expensive tests, and there is little chance that this person actually has this ailment.  Finally, many hospital overnight stays are done to "keep an eye on someone" as a strictly precautionary method.  While an M2M solution will not replace/reduce all of these things (and, there is still a lot of value in the observational skills of a nurse), many of these stays/tests can be avoided if the doctor/nurse had access to information via a remote monitoring system used by the patient.

Avoiding the hospital all together

I like the old saying that states that "the best part about going to a hospital is when you get to leave".  An even better idea is to avoid the hospital trip altogether.  The medical world needs to start to use M2M solutions to promote a healthier living and one way to do this is to allow for more information to be presented to your GP / Family Doctor about you.  Think of the last time that you went to the doctor....how much information does your doctor really get from you?  You may tell them about something that hurts, and they may discover some issues via some basic exams or through blood tests.  However, what if the doctor was able to pull up some great historic information over the past year about your health?  What if they could see what your different biometric readings had been at various intervals in your life.....they could see subtle changes that might not have been evident for a long time, allowing for preventive measures to be taken much sooner. 

By keeping you healthy on a day to day basis, insurance companies could use technology to help reduce the costs of healthcare (in a similar way to how the car insurance company uses Usage Based Insurance to better determine the premiums for drivers).  For publicly funded health care systems, this would free up the demand for various specialists, as the specialists would have access to providing assistance earlier in the process, reducing the need for expensive surgeries and treatments.

Speaking of medical specialists....

As the population ages, there will be an increasing demand on the expertise of certain medical specialists (ranging from orthopedic surgeons to those who specialize in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Diabetes).  We need to do what we can to optimize the time of these specialized teams, and this can be done through the increased usage of both remote monitoring and video diagnostics software.  First, through the use of remote monitoring, GP/Family Doctors will be able to get a better understanding of which patients actually need to see a specialists in the first place, as they will have more information to make decisions from.  The GP would be able to provide the data findings to the specialist, and in some cases, eliminate the need for the specialists to examine the patient altogether (again, I want to point out that M2M solutions will never replace the trained eye of a specialist, but rather will provide them with valuable information to make informed decisions).  As well, many remote patients have to either travel long distances or suffer extremely long waits to see many specialists.  Through the use of video-based technology, specialized professionals can work with local professionals to perform many services that were previously unavailable to remote patients.

Better record keeping is just better

I always get a kick out of how messy most doctors write their notes.  Having a Mom who is a nurse, I asked her how she ever understood it.  She told me that often, she didn't, and they had to track down the doctor to ask what they had written.  It got me thinking....what else are we missing by using only paper-based records?

Many jurisdictions have gone to using EHR (Electronic health records), as it simply works better....Here are four reasons why:

  1. Easier to read handwriting (this could apply for the most part, as some programs still capture handwriting and do not always translate it into text).
  2. Reduces duplication (when you go to a new doctor, they will have instant access to all of your old records, and in some jurisdictions, those records are available to ER staff as well if you arrive there)
  3. Quicker results (When I had an MRI done last year, my doctor had the results within 20 mins of them being ready, as they were alerted via email....pretty cool!)
  4. Faster record recall (When your life is on the line, I would much rather the Doctor be able to call up my old records online than have to send someone to the basement file locker).

Bottom Line

Some hospitals (and regional health agencies) have done a good initial job in deploying some basic M2M solutions to help improve the quality of care while reducing costs.  As the populations age, we need to see more adoption of M2M solutions to allow our health care to remain at the standards that we are used to while still allowing us enough money to pay for other things.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs - view our Products Section to see some of our offering. If you're on Twitter, don't forget to follow Novotech (@NovotechM2M) or follow me personally (@LBNovotechM2M).