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The Key To Successful Remote Health Monitoring?

One of the really fun things about being in this industry is the sheer level of innovation that is occurring. It seems like every week a new company pops up providing some sort of remote monitoring for the elderly. “We use an AI-powered platform attached to activity monitoring sensors to tell you if Mom is OK” or “Our remote monitoring capability uses Alexa and other cutting edge technologies to give you piece of mind” could be the marketing tagline for a lot of them.

But when it comes to using remote monitoring for medical conditions, a fundamental question needs to be asked: Does it work? I’ll cut to the chase: sometimes it does, other times it's not so clearcut. While there are a number of anecdotal stories of how remote monitoring reduces patient readmits, or how there are significant cost savings when remote monitoring is implemented, many of the studies in the area suffer from the fact that they are sponsored by the remote monitoring solution providers.

Even the independently produced studies have a hard time getting around a fundamental limitation: it is really hard to do a double-blind study when it comes to remote monitoring. For the uninitiated, a double-blind study is one where neither the participants nor the researchers know if a solution is being used on a particular patient. If either party knows, then human biases start to enter the picture.

You could solve that problem, but it isn't easy. You could give some of the participants a fake device, but the researchers would certainly know that there was no data coming from it. You could bring in a third-party that would blind the researchers as to the source, but as far as we know no one has yet gone to the trouble.

The net result is the studies around remote monitoring are a bit of a mixed bag. A recently updated meta-analysis of existing randomized trials concluded that for certain chronic and acute conditions, there was some indication of benefit for readmissions and costs, but the level of significance varied greatly. When specific measurable outcomes such as BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, or weight were used, the results were generally not significant.

At this point you might be asking “But wait. Isn’t ONKÖL a remote monitoring solution? Why are you bringing up the fact that studies show it to be a mixed bag?” It’s because ONKÖL isn’t just a remote monitoring solution. ONKÖL is a communication enabling solution, and there’s a big difference.

A remote monitoring solution simply allows a measurement from one place to end up in another place. For most remote monitoring solutions, that means from an elderly household to a physician. A communication enabling solution coordinates the dissemination of a measurement from one place to many places. In ONKÖL’s case, that means not only from Mom’s house to the physician, but also to family member cellphones, caregiver tablets, and virtually anyone else who might have an interest in the data.

As it turns out, enabling family members to become more actively involved in Mom’s medical care has positive benefits for everybody. A study published in 2011 found that having non-professional friends or family participate in PCP visits and similar situations was associated with positive experiences for both patient and physicians. Fully 78% of the participants in the study were more motivated to follow the doctor’s advice when a family member was involved. And 95% of the physicians said that they understood their patient’s concerns better, because they were given additional context. We believe the same principle can be applied to remote monitoring.

When it comes to remote monitoring, context can be really important. For example, if Dad’s blood pressure readings were consistently a bit high because he had a habit of taking the measurement just after doing yard work, he might not remember that context when at the Dr’s office. A family member would be more likely to remember, and potentially could spot that behavior early on because they would be receiving regular texts with his readings each day. Not knowing that context could result in a different treatment regimen.

Over the coming years, additional studies on remote monitoring will provide clarity on its benefits. When they do, we’re pretty confident that remote monitoring with family involvement will generate far better results than remote monitoring on its own. In the meantime we invite you to judge for yourself and give ONKÖL a try. Ask your in-home care agency or chronic care provider if they offer ONKÖL to their clients.

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