Mobile technologies could help slash hospital readmission rates

Unplanned hospital readmissions cost Medicare $17.4 billion a year, and as many as 76 percent of these events are preventable, says the Center for Technology and Aging, citing a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Four types of technologies--three of them with strong mobile components--could cut the 30-day readmission rate, currently at about 18 percent, by a third, the Oakland, Calif.-based organization says in a new report.

The center recommends greater use of technologies for medication adherence, medication reconciliation, remote patient monitoring and general health information and communication technologies. (ICT is the term preferred over IT in Europe and many other parts of the world.)

"Several technologies are widely available and have potential to support post-acute care transitions, but they are underutilized," Center for Technology and Aging Director David Lindeman says in a press release. "Home-use technologies help decrease readmissions in a variety of ways, including engaging patients and caregivers in ways that promote better communication, medication adherence and monitoring of chronic conditions."

While med-rec generally is something done at the point of care--and might include mobile technologies--the other three areas could rely heavily on mobile and wireless. The position paper examines several types of technology and even evaluates specific products in most categories. Some, of course, hold more promise than others.

The center is somewhat concerned that easy-to-use, standalone technologies like the "talking pill bottle" don't have the connectivity or functionality to provide comprehensive, coordinated health management, but that may not necessarily be bad. "There is a need for a large portfolio of technologies, from simple to complex, in order to meet needs for all patient segments in the most appropriate way," the report says.

For further details:
- see this Center for Technology and Aging press release
- download the report (.pdf)