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SD mHealth Partnership Explores Value of Remote Monitoring

A business involved in the partnership suggests that implementing remote monitoring services could save South Dakota 20 percent on healthcare costs.

- A new public-private collaboration is looking to improve remote monitoring services and chronic disease management for patients in South Dakota.

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The partnership between the University of South Dakota’s Beacom School of Business, South Dakota’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), and Health Factors, Inc. seeks to provide insight into how mHealth technology could produce better health outcomes and reduce spending through at home monitoring for patients with COPD, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure.

“Chronic conditions are a primary driver of health care costs,” said Dan Spors, Health Factors chief commercial officer, in a press release. “This partnership is helping to quantify the impact that connected health technology and at-home monitoring can have on quality of care and the patient experience, while improving care management efforts and reducing costs.”

COPD affects more than 11 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the US, according the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2010, COPD treatment across the country cost an estimated $50 billion, with indirect costs accounting for $20 billion and direct health care expenses totalling $30 billion.

The Beacom School of Business and Health Factors, Inc. are conducting an analysis of claims data from the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) to determine how using at-home monitoring to delay or prevent hospital admissions would impact actual hospital costs.

An estimated 40 percent of COPD costs could be avoided by preventative treatment, according to the COPD Foundation.  The majority of COPD admissions cost between $25,000 and $60,000, SDAHO said.

Remote monitoring has already demonstrated its potential to make a positive impact on patients with chronic diseases. According to a recent @Home study, a year-long remote monitoring program for Pennsylvania patients with heart failure saved more than $8,000 per patient and cut hospitalizations by 30 percent.

However, researchers have questioned whether mHealth consumers over-rely on their devices to manage their condition. Specifically, one study suggested hypertension patients who used home-monitoring devices to measure their blood-pressure may have caused a spike in the number of emergency room visits in Canada.

Toronto emergency room physician and study author Clare Atzema found, between 2002 and 2012, the number of patients visiting the emergency room for hypertension-related concerns increased 64 percent, but only 8 percent were admitted. Atzema and her colleagues speculated that many of these patients rushed to the emergency room after taking their blood pressure at home and getting high results.

By implementing at-home monitoring services that could lead to earlier interventions and cheaper hospitalizations, Health Factors, Inc. is aiming to save South Dakota 20 percent on health care costs.

A report on the findings is being delivered to the GOED. Results of the analysis will be used to determine the viability of a South Dakota-based at-home monitoring services company.

“The project is an excellent example of how South Dakota is working to grow the state’s economy through a successful start-up business, while also improving health care and reducing costs for all South Dakotans,” said GOED Commissioner Scott Stern.

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