Restrictive approach of health care funding bodies stifles uptake of remote patient monitoring technologies

London 27 August 2003Remote patient monitoring, especially telecardiology, is poised to become an integral part of the European health care market. Initial acceptance has, however, been stymied by the more conservative elements in the health care profession. An ageing population and high rates of cardiac disease have overlapped with escalating costs of health care technology. These trends have coincided with the promotion of market-oriented policies by European governments. Together, these factors have created a framework favourable to telecardiology's acceptance into the European health care system.

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Persuading the more reluctant forces within health care funding bodies of the possible long-term cost savings and improved patient care held out by telecardiology and other remote patient monitoring technologies remains an ongoing challenge. Rather than adopt a total-cost-of-treatment model over a patient's lifetime, health care funders have followed a short-term approach wherein telecardiology appears to be expensive on a per patient basis. Changing this mind set has, therefore, become an immediate compulsion.

Frost & Sullivan's Industry Analyst Chris Cherrington commented: "Whilst it should be the case that an organisation publicly-funded and nationally-provided should strive to reduce the total amount of money it spends per capita by the prevention of disease rather than its treatment, this is rarely the case. Historic based budgeting is the primary reason for this short-sightedness. At the same time individual politicians tend to have tenure of less than ten years, encouraging them to concentrate on short-term targets."

The failure to take a long-term view and to have a strategic overview of health care spending remains a limitation of all European governments. One cause for optimism is the possibility that health insurance companies, impelled by financial motives, will promote the use of telecardiology to reduce costs. By demonstrating the financial advantages of new, remote patient monitoring technologies, health insurance companies are expected to bolster public sector approval.

The more conservative health care providers have been sceptical of developments in IT. However, as IT becomes increasingly reliable, affordable and more mainstream, this resistance is expected to weaken and greater receptivity to IT-driven remote patient monitoring technologies is anticipated. At the same time, the relatively smooth entry of remote patient monitoring technologies into the United States market is likely to assuage fears of litigation arising from misinterpretation or incorrect transmission of patient data.

Even as vendors try to convince the medical community and governments of the efficiency and cost savings potential of remote patient monitoring, Philips' Paxiva service is projected to have a positive impact on market growth. The success of this service, currently available in Germany and Italy, is expected to motivate more widespread adoption of telecardiology among governments and funding bodies. Paxiva's likely success is also poised to inspire a flurry of competing product launches.

According to current Frost & Sullivan estimates, 1,5 percent or just over 50.000 post-trauma cardiac patients are being remotely monitored in Europe. By 2011, over four million patients are expected to be remotely monitored. In the longer term, remote patient monitoring is forecast to have wider applications than just telecardiology. Apart from patients of coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure, other categories of end-users are likely to include the "worried well" and the elderly.

As public sector health care providers increasingly adopt remote patient monitoring, commercial vendors are set to benefit from two important revenue-generating opportunities. These include the supply of hardware and equipment to facilitate telecardiology as well as the provision of professional services to install and operate telecardiology procedures.

"There is a real and unstoppable trend towards the joining of modern communications technology and medicine", concluded Mr. Cherrington. "What is required in this market is to achieve a critical mass of existing patients, which provides the proof of the efficacy of telecardiology. With the current Philips project looking set to achieve this, a bright future for remote patient monitoring is assured." For more information you can contact Mrs. Katja Feick of Frost & Sullivan.


Leslie Versweyveld

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