Chronic illness (a condition that lasts three months or longer) is a serious problem in the United States. About 40 percent of Americans, or more than 130 million people, suffer from some type of chronic illness — like diabetes, asthma, arthritis and heart disease, just to name a few. And in terms of cost, the treatment of chronic diseases makes up 66 percent of all healthcare costs in this country. For people over age 65, 95 percent of all money spent on healthcare goes to the treatment of these types of conditions.
With the Baby Boomer generation aging, access to good healthcare and specialists is becoming more important daily. An estimated 10,000 people celebrate their 65th birthday every day, and that trend is expected to continue for the next 12 years. That means that by the year 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.
Internet of medical things
Despite the challenges, there are new tools to help confront these staggering numbers. The dual components of technology and broadband together are forging a powerful way to deliver better and less-costly healthcare, without loss of quality for patients. It’s called the internet of medical things, or IoMT. This can help anyone with high-speed internet access, but the biggest beneficiaries are people with chronic conditions who need to see a medical professional on a high-frequency basis.
IoMT refers to a plethora of medical and personal devices creating their own network around a patient, with data and results consistently being fed to a doctor, or several doctors. These devices can monitor several different functions at once. Things like:
- Heart rate/heartbeat
- Pacemaker function
- Glucose and insulin levels
- Patient physical activity to monitor falls
- Medication reminders and documentation
- Conducting regular blood and urine tests
- Alerting a caregiver if a patient is in trouble, or has wandered away from home
Devices like insulin pumps, defibrillators and sleep apnea machines have now been developed to “talk” to a patient’s clinician or specialist and provide them with consistent data 24/7. These remote monitors are often much more effective and objective than patients self-reporting to their doctors about their activities, daily medication schedule and sleep patterns.
Since these devices share their data with all of a patient’s physicians and specialists, this can greatly cut the chances of conflicting medications, conflicting medical advice and duplication of costly medical tests. This is especially beneficial for those patients with more than one chronic condition. Physicians can use hard data, instead of relying on patients to tell doctors about all of their medications, diet or activities that may interfere with or affect those medications and conditions aversely.
There are many benefits to this strategy, above and beyond just teleconferencing between doctors and patients, such as:
- Improved records between one patient and many doctors or specialists, in real time
- Improved follow-up conferences in a timely manner, before conditions worsen
- Data collected helps doctors provide pinpointed information to improve patient self-management at home or work
- Patients are more connected and more educated about their care plans, with growing awareness of keeping themselves healthy
Access to broadband can be a game changer
All of this is good news for ailing patients and their many physicians; however, the only way these technologies can work is with reliable, high-speed internet. Broadband is so important, that the FCC has said, “the future of modern healthcare appears to be fundamentally premised on the widespread availability and accessibility of high-speed connectivity.” But right now, there are still some 24 million Americans without broadband. Some can’t afford it; others, especially in rural areas, have no access to historical broadband options like fiber or cable.
Viasat’s broadband satellite internet solution can change that. Today’s satellite technology has advanced rapidly in just the past few years. Viasat has been delivering efficient service since 2012, and the even more powerful ViaSat-2 satellite, launched in 2017, covers nearly the entire country with reliable broadband speeds. Almost anyone can get service right after signing up, so broadband and the best healthcare services in the world can be just a few days away.