A recent piece from Harvard Business Review suggests that telemedicine could truly revolutionize healthcare—and could drive healthcare costs down by as much as 90%.
|Dr. K. S. Nayak|
Telemedicine has long been hyped, but has yet to live up to its potential in the United States. Consider, however, its use in India. Thanks to the explosion of mobile networks and growing use of smartphones there, telemedicine is already having a big impact in that country. In India, remote diagnostic devices are used to monitor health metrics such as blood pressure, heart rate, ECGs, and pulse rate.
One example of where telemedicine is achieving impressive results in the country is in peritoneal dialysis (PD). Home-based PD has been successfully used by Dr. K. S. Nayak, chief nephrologist at the Lazarus Hospital in Hyderabad, India as treatment for patients with chronic kidney disease— at a cost of $12,000 per patient. That might not sound so inexpensive until you compare it to the alternative: hospital-based hemodialysis, which can cost more than $170,000 per patient in the United States. Dr. Nayak’s patients had better survival rates than patients treated with hospital-based treatment.
In its PD dialysis treatment, Lazarus Hospital has developed a remote monitoring system that makes use of SMS messaging services, digital cameras, and the Internet matched with a team of support staff. At the heart of the system is the PD-Software, which provides connectivity.
Dr. Nayak believes that the system could be successfully used in the United States; he is quoted in the Harvard Business Review as saying: “Our success can easily be replicated in the U.S. Conservatively, even if 15% of ESRD patients choose PD over HD, cost savings for Medicare and Medicaid will run into many millions of dollars every year.”
As for India, challenges still exist in that country in terms of telemedicine adoption. As Gopi Gopalakrishnan, founder-president of World Health Partners explains in an article from Knowledge@Wharton: "There's a huge, unmet health care need in our rural hinterlands. [...] Telemedicine is a good strategy to strengthen the existing human resources available in health care. The scale, however, will come only through effective government intervention."
The blog on Harvard Business Review is also well worth a read.
Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.