The CSIRO has reported on the results of Australia’s first large-scale trial of in home monitoring of aging people with chronic health issues, saying it demonstrated that widespread adoption could shave $3 billion a year from healthcare costs.
CSIRO and partners trialled various systems with 287 patients over a 12 month period. CSIRO says it showed cost reductions of 24 percent in Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) expenditure over the year by cutting the number and cost of GP visits, specialist visits and procedures. The CSIRO said the results were broadly in agreement with international data, but the impact on MBS and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme expenditure had never been previously reported.
Trial participants were provided with a telehealth device that included participant/clinician videoconferencing capabilities, messaging features devices to monitor their ECG, heart rate, lung function, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body weight and body temperature.
“Patients on the trial have reported improvements in anxiety, depression and quality of life, with many finding that home monitoring gave them a better understanding of their chronic conditions,” CSIRO said. “Health workers could assess changes in their patients’ conditions remotely and provide appropriate care interventions earlier to help them stay out of hospital.”
CSIRO lead researcher Dr Rajiv Jayasena said the 12-month trial enabled chronic disease patients to self-manage their conditions at home through the provision of telehealth services. “Aged patients with multiple chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease account for more than 70 percent of our health system expenditure,” he said.
“In addition to a 24 percent savings of Medical Benefits Scheme expenditure over one year, the trial also showed a substantial 36 percent decrease in hospital admission and, most importantly, a 42 percent reduction in length of stay for patients admitted to hospital during the 12 month trial. This is a huge saving when you consider the cost of a hospital bed per day is estimated to be about $2051 in Australia.”
Dr Jayasena said more than 500,000 Australians aged over 65 would be good candidates for at-home telemonitoring. “Our research showed the return on investment of a telemonitoring initiative on a national scale would be in the order of five to one by reducing demand on hospital inpatient and outpatient services, reduced visits to GPs, reduced visits from community nurses and an overall reduced demand on increasingly scarce clinical resources.”
However the report said: “From a simple analysis of population health data we conclude that approximately 750,000 people aged over 65 with complex chronic conditions and multiple co-morbidities who are admitted to hospital at least once each year would benefit from at home telemonitoring of their vital signs and from on-going clinical monitoring and triage of their health status.”
The full report can be downloaded here.