Researchers fail to find savings with home telemonitoring among older adults

Home telemonitoring failed to significantly save money over usual care among older adults with multiple chronic conditions, according to a study published in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The 12-month research project, from the Mayo Clinic and Purdue University, involved 205 people randomly divided into two groups.

The usual care group had access to office visits, phone services and home healthcare, while members of the intervention group used telemonitoring equipment plus vital-sign-measurement equipment such as weight scale, blood pressure, cuff, glucometer, and pulse oximeter. Vitals were transmitted automatically to the provider and monitored by a nurse and medical assistant.

The study found no significant differences in the mean inpatient and ED visits and in hospital days between patients in the two groups.

"Early detection of health issues by primary care providers through home telemonitoring may lead to a more predictable average of annual hospital days and possibly the length of stay; however, this would require a larger study with greater numbers of patients," the authors said.

They urged future research on finding the right subset of high-risk patients who could benefit from telemonitoring to reduce hospital readmissions.

Alejandro Arrieta, of Florida International University in Miami, and his colleagues found that reimbursement for home blood pressure monitoring is cost beneficial for insurers--saving $33 to $166 per patient in the first year and up to almost $1,400 over 10 years.

The growing elderly population is among the factors expected to drive the U.S. market for patient monitoring technology to more than $5.1 billion by 2020.

However, a 2013 British government evaluation failed to find telehealth cost-effective for patients with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes. Telehealth also failed to improve patient quality of life.

"Notwithstanding steady growth in telehealth studies over the past 20 years, robust evidence to inform policy decisions is lacking," the authors of the British government evaluation wrote. "Systematic reviews show that although enthusiasts have written much about the promise of telehealth, most studies do not meet orthodox quality standards."

To learn more:
- read the research (.pdf)