• Telehealth roundup: Gadgets, chairs, apps, and video chats

    Author | Date October 17, 2013
    The options for telehealth continue to expand as providers seek ways to cut down on time, engage patients, and keep sniffles and coughs away from the emergency room.  From diabetes management apps to a futuristic, immersive monitoring cockpit, telehealth continues to push the boundaries of what is possible to achieve from a tablet, phone, or a patient’s living room.
    Diabetes management gets a boost with Bluetooth: A portable Bluetooth device that integrates with a variety of blood glucose monitors can wirelessly transmit blood sugar data to providers through a secure website.  The concept is nothing new, and it is starting to have an effect. A recent study in Diabetes Care indicated patients using mobile reporting devices saw their A1c reduced by 1.5 percent on average.  When clinical decision support was added, the patient’s A1c level dropped an additional 30 percent on average, for a total of 1.9 percent.
    “One of the largest patient-generated data sets in the world is glucose monitoring, potentially hundreds of millions of data points per day,” Biomedtrics CEO Robert Englert said in a press release. “Only a small fraction of this data is shared in a way that benefits the individual, their doctor, their family or the community in an efficient and meaningful way.”
    Louisiana prisons expand inmate telehealth care: Over the next year, the Louisiana Department of Corrections hopes to expand its telehealth program from 3500 incarcerated patients to 20,000.  While primary care services are offered to prisoners onsite, routine check-ups with specialists such as cardiologists can be conducted remotely, saving time and transport costs while reducing risk for security personnel.
    Telehealth chair combines comfort and predictive vitals monitoring: Sharp’s new Telehealth Chair combines automated monitoring of blood pressure, pulse, and body temperature with a futuristic data display to warn patients of impending problems through data analysis.  Sharp is considering adding real-time physician chat capabilities to the system, so that patients can discuss changes or concerns through video conferencing.
    Ten minutes of telehealth for fifty bucks: Want to see a physician at 3AM?  American Well’s new telehealth app lets patients connect with a remote provider for five dollars a minute.  The service is available around the clock in 45 states, in an attempt to keep unnecessary emergency room usage to a minimum.  A physician will encourage a patient to see a real-life provider if necessary, and refer them to a lab or x-ray facility when needed.
    “I can do almost everything on telehealth that I do in my traditional practice,” says Teresa Myers, a physician from Ohio who conducts telehealth consults in her spare time. “The only thing that is available to patients after hours is usually the ER.  That is not the most appropriate use of our health-care dollars when it is not an emergency.”
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