Aging gracefully, with health analytics

Using technology and analytics to help ailing seniors live independently

By Cheryl Goldberg, Goldberg Communications

In what’s been termed the “silver tsunami,” 10,000 baby boomers1 are turning 65 every day. These aging boomers are in increasingly poor health. Nearly one in five has diabetes, 40 percent are obese, and more than half take prescription medication for hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 38th annual report on the nation’s health.2

Despite these maladies, the report found that the overall death rate for boomers has declined over the last decade. The inevitable upshot will be that more of them will need more care for longer periods. Yet many wish to avoid nursing homes, and experts worry that there won’t be enough facilities for those who need them.

But health care providers are using new technologies to help individuals live at home longer. For example, remote patient monitoring and patient data analytics solutions from Geneia allow health care providers to keep tabs on patients from their homes and quickly determine when patients need additional help or interventions.

As we gather more and more data, we can better understand when peoples’ health starts to fail – and minimize the number of false alarms that come through.


Heather Lavoie
Chief Strategy Officer
Geneia

Advances in home patient monitoring

While remote patient monitoring has been available for some time, it used to be unwieldy. Providers would cart gigantic oxygen meters or blood glucose devices into people’s homes. Today devices for monitoring things like pulse, oxygen, blood glucose levels, blood pressure and respiration rates are much smaller and easier to use. Patients can even wear a patch that allows providers to perform a remote EKG.

“If the patient has an acute situation, such as a myocardial infarction, we can use remote monitoring for transitional care,” explained Mark Caron, CEO of Geneia. “We can monitor the patient with a telemetry patch that sends data right to the provider’s office or hospital. If any of the measurements indicate deteriorating health, their detection triggers an alert to providers who can then deliver lifesaving interventions much earlier than they would otherwise.”

Patients can also use these measurements to help control their own health or gain peace of mind should they encounter disturbing symptoms. For example, if patients have congestive heart failure, they’re at much greater risk if they take on fluid. At-home monitoring gives them understanding and incentive not to eat salty potato chips, which can worsen water retention. Alternatively, monitoring can save patients a trip to the emergency room for heart palpitations when the real problem is indigestion.

Reducing the risk of false positives

Remote monitoring technologies are also becoming more intelligent, which helps reduce false positives and other risks. For example, a high blood pressure reading could indicate a problem, or it could simply mean that the person just climbed a flight of stairs.

To filter out the noise and more accurately understand when changes in vital signs truly indicate a problem, Geneia offers solutions that take advantage of advanced analytics and can continually improve analytic models as new data is collected.  “As we gather more and more data, we can better understand when people’s health starts to fail – and minimize the number of false alarms that come through,” explained Heather Lavoie, Chief Strategy Officer at Geneia.

Continuous improvement can be incorporated right into the caregiver’s work with patients. “Caregivers interacting with patients can provide direct feedback to Geneia solutions that can then be used to improve predictions in the future,” said Lavoie. “For example, if an alert that comes up for a patient turns out to be inapplicable, the caregiver can indicate that. That feedback would then be incorporated into the model, improving predictions moving forward.”  

Guiding treatment

While remote patient monitoring and analytics today primarily track trends in patients’ vital signs, predictive analytics technologies are poised to increasingly assist physicians and other caregivers in providing the right protocols of care.

“In the future, we’ll be able to use event-driven predictive analytics that takes patient data and create a ‘smart alert’ that helps clinicians and patients provide the right interventions at the right time,” explains Lavoie. As a result, ailing patients will be able to safely remain in their homes with the assurance that they’ll receive the right care at the right time.

1Heimlich, Russell. "Baby Boomers Retire." Pew Research Center RSS. 2010. http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/baby-boomers-retire
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Health, United States 2014: With Special Feature on Adults Aged 55 to 64.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus14.pdf

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