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Is 2010 the Technology Tipping Point?

5/29/10 By David Lindeman and Daniel Danzig

When President Obama signed sweeping health reform legislation into law in March, a troubling gap in America’s health care system was closed and 30 million people were at last guaranteed access to basic health insurance. Unfortunately, other serious gaps in our health system still remain.

Among the most significant is delivering high quality, efficient care to older American’s with chronic conditions, without moving them away from their homes or communities. The nation’s 65 and older population will double during the next 25 years. By 2030 the entire baby boom generation will have turned 65. Based on current trends, at least 80 percent of these Americans will have one chronic condition, and 50 percent will have at least two. Not surprisingly, 75 percent of the nations $2.2 trillion annual health tab goes to care for patients with chronic conditions[1].

In an issue of Health Affairs last year, Molly Coye, MD, et al, said, “The most pressing task of health care is to make care effective and affordable; this is particularly important in the case of chronic disease.” The article discusses how technology innovation is attracting new interest as an enabler of greater efficiency and self-management in chronic disease care.

An outstanding example is the Veterans Health Administration’s Community Care/ Health Technology program that has taken a “systems approach” to adoption of appropriate technologies that support independent living. For the 43,430 patients enrolled in this program in 2008, care costs were only $1,600 per patient/per year when compared to traditional home-based primary care services costing $13,121 pt/yr, or nursing home based care averaging $77,745 pt/yr.

Recently, the Center made grants to several organizations that will demonstrate methods for helping providers, patients and caregivers more rapidly adopt medication optimization technologies. These technologies – ranging from medication logs to automated dispensing devices – help to address medication non-adherence, a serious problem that is responsible for 33-69% of medication-related hospital admissions and 23% of all nursing home admissions.

Health reform includes a number of mechanisms intended to facilitate beneficial delivery-system changes – including greater adoption of electronic medical records and health information exchange (HITECH Act). Ostensibly, these would include the kinds of technologies we’re funding and promoting at the Center. Coupled with the rapid adoption of mobile technology and telehealth, perhaps 2010 will be the year in which a tipping point is reached in our capacity to bridge the gap between what has been and what is possible for helping older Americans with chronic conditions live more independently.

But whether innovation moves forward as quickly as we would like this year, next year or over the next several years – the good news is that adoption rates of these technology platforms are speeding up and they are now widely recognized as powerful tools for redesigning chronic care and redefining relationships between providers, care givers and patients.

Reprinted with permission from Aging Today Vol 31:2 , March-April 2010. Copyright © 2010. American Society on Aging, San Francisco, California. www.asaging.org.

[1] CHCF

Important Remote Patient Monitoring Dates

Grant Guidelines Released
January 11, 2010

Application and Letter of Intent Due March 12, 2010

Full Proposals Requested
March 26, 2010

Full Proposals Due
April 30, 2010

Final Grant Award Decision
June 18, 2010

Grant Start Date
July 1, 2010

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