New Patient Monitoring Devices Handle More Than Just Vital Signs

Armen Hareyan's picture
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An aging population and a shortage of healthcare workers have driven the development of systems that can monitor patients remotely, process data, and even alert a healthcare worker if there is a problem. These new generation patient monitoring (PM) systems earned an estimated $3.9 billion dollars for device manufacturers in 2007; and this could more than double in five years, according to High-Tech Patient Monitoring Systems, a new market research study by Kalorama Information.

The diseases that make up most of US healthcare spending -- asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, chronic heart disease and diabetes -- are also among those most amenable to patient monitoring. And better PM systems mean that patients can leave the hospital sooner, thus reducing costs. Given this demand, manufacturers such as Honeywell, GE and Abbott have raced to add wireless communication, data processing and web interfacing features. These features enable the systems to gather, sort, and drop data into a patient's electronic medical record (EMR) for future review.

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But most useful are the intelligent PM systems that can "read" the data based on pre-programmed algorithms for a patient's specific condition, and can automatically report to a healthcare worker or physician when measurements are abnormal.

"Data is important, but if your system only gathers data, you are just increasing the burden on the workers who have to then interpret that data," said Melissa Elder, analyst for Kalorama Information. "The smart PM systems know that when a pre-defined number is hit, its time to call the doctor."

Some systems can even take patient care a step further, incorporating built-in video and audio interfaces so that the patient and physician can speak.

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