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The $7 Billion Tech Trend Changing the Face of Healthcare

It’s one of the most difficult choices a person has to make: Deciding whether to put a parent or grandparent into an assisted living facility.

But when their quality of life is compromised, what other choice is there?

Well, thanks to modern technology, here’s one: “Telemedicine.”

Let me explain how this new system works, the benefits, and of course, the best way to play this rapidly growing multi-billion dollar industry.

Telemedicine: The Nursing Home Alternative

Otherwise known as Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), telemedicine allows families to monitor elderly family members without sending them to a nursing home.

Basically, these systems involve strategically placed sensors and cameras throughout Grandpa’s house, with live data transmitted directly to doctors and family members.

That data ranges from simple things like tracking movement between rooms and how often a person takes their medicine, to more sophisticated data collection like sleep activity and blood sugar levels. It also sends an alert in case the person gets confused and tries to walk out of the house in the middle of the night.

Is telemedicine for everyone? Perhaps not. But three things are certain…

  • It offers a more independent alternative to assisted living.
  • It’s cheaper for families.
  • It’s an increasingly lucrative business.

A Huge Boost for the Baby Boom Generation

Let’s take heart monitoring, for example.

Just four days of such treatment in a hospital costs around $25,000. But by using telemedicine devices, a Tufts Medical Center study shows that hospitalization time – and, in turn, costs – can be cut by as much as 72%.

As we all know, cutting healthcare costs is more important than ever right now.

As BusinessWeek points out: “With healthcare costs consuming nearly a fifth of the economy, [telemedicine] devices offer one way to manage the wave of baby-boomers who will require more and more medical care as they age.”

With telemedicine’s obvious benefits, it’s no that surprise that this market is expanding impressively. Estimates call for it to grow from $3 billion to $7.7 billion over the next two years.

It’s also no surprise that the real opportunity is cruising well under Wall Street’s radar.

Not ours, though. In fact, our Chief Investment Strategist, Louis Basenese, zeroed in on the trend back in 2009…

Cutting Costs and Pushing into the Public Eye

At the time, he said it’s “the most important trend for the next 20 years. And countless technology companies are already jockeying to get a piece of this health care revolution.”

So with telemedicine now picking up steam, why isn’t it hitting the headlines?

One word: Price.

Some systems still sell for upwards of $5,000. Others charge monthly fees of around $300 or $400.

However, compared to the average $70,000 it costs per year for nursing home care, I expect consumers to realize the benefit of remote monitoring systems very soon.

And there’s already a laundry list of top competitors vying for action…

Big Tech Snuggles up to Telemedicine

Two of America’s heavyweight companies – General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) – have formed a joint venture called Intel-GE Care Innovations.

And just this month, the FDA cleared their Intel Health Guide Express product. It’s basically a touchscreen kiosk that allows patients to stay connected to doctors. They’re also making a software version of the system available during the second quarter of 2011.

Other top names are teaming up as well. Only they’re aligning themselves with smaller, established competitors in the industry. For example…

  • Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint (NYSE: S) have partnered with BL Healthcare, a leading provider in telemedicine management solutions. This will allow for their 3G and 4G data connectivity in the BL’s remote monitoring systems.
  • AT&T (NYSE: ATT) hit up private company WellDoc to bring its mobile health applications to AT&T employees. And Nasdaq selected WellDoc as one of 15 innovators to participate in The Next Great Consumer Brands Showcase last Thursday.
  • On February 15, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) made a deal with Control4 in order to tie the private company’s home automation technology into its consumer products. Control4’s software connects devices like electronics, appliances, lights and thermostats so they can work together efficiently. And while it doesn’t target the health industry yet, it certainly has potential to integrate healthcare monitoring applications into its systems.

Other major U.S. companies jostling for position in this industry include Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM).

What does this show you?

Simply, that top companies are betting on the shift to wireless healthcare. And as the trend gains momentum, you can bet they’ll be taking aim at established companies like BL Healthcare, WellDoc and Control4 as potential takeover targets.

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

View More By Justin Fritz