Telemonitoring savings not significant

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A new study seems to cast doubts about telemonitoring savings.
A new study seems to cast doubts about telemonitoring savings.

Despite new research suggesting that a majority of U.S. adults — 56% — now embrace using a connected device at home to monitor health and share data with caregivers, telemedicine might not be the savior some forecast it to be, according to a study by Mayo Clinic and Purdue University scientists.

The 12-month research project involved 205 older adults with multiple chronic conditions who were randomly divided into two groups. The usual care group had access to office visits, phone services and home healthcare. The telemedicine group transmitted data from vital sign devices and other kinds of monitoring devices for weight, glucose and blood pressure to clinicians.

While the telemedicine group did have less variability in their cost of care and a lower total 30-day readmission cost than the usual care group overall, the study found no significant differences in the mean total cost between the two treatment groups. Researchers also found little difference in the number of inpatient and emergency department visits or in-hospital days between patients in the two groups.

“Among high-risk and seriously ill elderly patients, total costs were not statistically different,” said Benjavan Upatising, Ph.D., who led the study. Full findings appear in the January issue of Telemedicine and eHealth.

A 2013 British government analysis concluded that telehealth methods did not improve the quality of life and were not cost-effective among people with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes.

Reducing drugs

Redirecting seniors in a continuing care retirement community to personalized technology services resulted in up to a 50% reduction in the use of psychotropic drugs, according to research from It's Never 2 Late and Western Home Communities. The study was conducted at Martin Health Center, a skilled nursing facility in Cedar Falls, IA, where 11 of the 48 residents have a dementia diagnosis and receive antipsychotics as needed to treat behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Rescue robots?

Japanese researchers recently unveiled Robear, an experimental robot developed by the RIKEN-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research and Sumitomo Riko Company. The robot is designed to ease the burden on caregivers by lifting patients out of beds and into wheelchairs, and helping those who need assistance to stand up.

New speech tool

The ELEKIN research group of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country is developing a non-invasive speech-based diagnostic technique for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease. Known as Automatic Spontaneous Speech Analysis, the methodology measures parameters such as the pauses made when trying to remember a word, during recordings of patients while they describe a life experience.

Vulnerable apps

Roughly half of all Android handsets are vulnerable to a newly discovered hack that in some cases allows attackers to secretly modify or replace seemingly benign apps with malicious ones that steal passwords and other sensitive data, according to a new discovery from Palo Alto Networks.

Boning up

A new instrument called the OsteoProbe can measure mechanical properties of a bone at the tissue level. A clinical trial of the instrument, conducted at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, shows that, compared to standard measurement techniques, the instrument's measurements are sensitive enough to reflect changes in cortical bone indentation following treatment in osteoporosis patients newly exposed to glucocorticoids. Results were reported in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Expanding use

Arkansas and Idaho passed bills in March that will allow limited telemedicine use. In addition, Colorado, Florida and Missouri are debating bills that would expand telemedicine reimbursement within the state.

Leakage common

An analysis of more than 80,000 health-related websites shows that nine out of 10 visits result in personal health information being leaked to third parties, including online advertisers and data brokers. The study, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, was published in the March issue of Communication of the ACM.

Late emails problematic

Employees who receive work-related emails and text messages after hours often become angry as a result, and that can interfere with their personal lives, according to research out of the University of Texas at Arlington. Study results were published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Security breach

More than 80 million current and former customers of Anthem, the nation's second largest health insurance company, are the latest victims of a massive security breach. Hackers accessed personal information including names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, email addresses, street addresses and employment information in what Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish called “a very sophisticated external cyber attack.” No credit card or medical data seem to have been taken. 

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