News Blog

Telemedicine and Patient Safety

Executive Director - Friday, September 16, 2016

A paradigm shift is ongoing in the health care sector. The traditional model of episodic and hospital-based care is being replaced by a patient-centric approach, in which patients are constantly connected to their health care providers. This shift is driven by the need to optimize the performance of the health care system and enabled by advances in technology.
Advanced communications and monitoring technologies facilitate the exchange of a patient's information between two or more sites. These technologies are now commonly applied in virtually every medical specialty to educate, monitor, offer self-management support for patients, and provide clinicians with clinical decision support for diagnosis and ongoing care. A variety of terms—telemedicine, telehealth, connected health, eHealth, mHealth—are used to describe this model of care delivery. The more general term, telemedicine, will be used in this article.
The evidence supporting the role of telemedicine is strong. Studies have shown that telemedicine promotes continuity of care, decreases the cost of care, and improves patient self-management and overall clinical outcomes. For example, a synthesis of evidence from 15 systematic reviews published between 2003 and 2013 demonstrated that heart failure telemonitoring reduced all-cause mortality by 15%–40% and heart failure–related hospitalizations by 14%–36%.(1) Another systematic review found that, compared with usual care, telemonitoring for patients with heart failure was associated with significant cost reductions, ranging from 1.6%–68.3%.(2) This body of evidence is driving the increased adoption of telemedicine services. For instance, the heart failure telemonitoring program (Connected Cardiac Care Program) at Partners Healthcare, which has consistently achieved significant reductions in 30-day readmissions, started as a small pilot project in 2007.(3) Since then, the program has been deployed as a population health management tool across Partners' network of hospitals.

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