A new study identifies 11 emerging technologies which, it says, have the potential to improve care and lower costs for chronic disease patents, especially those in at-risk populations.

The 'technologies to watch" identified in the report, which is produced by US-based health policy research organisation NEHI, target a range of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, stroke and heart disease, and reflect the growing emphasis on empowering patients to monitor their own care through the use of mobile platforms, social networking and home-based telehealth technologies.

The 11 technologies on NEHI's watch list are: - tele-stroke care; - virtual visits; - mobile asthma management tools; - in-car telehealth; - extended care eVisits; - mobile clinical decision support; - medication adherence tools; - social media promoting health; - mobile cardiovascular tools; - home telehealth; and mobile disease management tools.

The technologies identified include web-based platforms that enable patients to connect virtually to their physician through their Smartphone or personal computer, mobile phone apps for medication reminders and asthma control, and in-care wireless systems that monitor patients' health while they are driving.

According to NEHI's selection criteria, the technologies are currently under-used but have high future potential, and they align to the "safety net" population (the low-income, uninsured population with unmet medical needs, but who are - the report points out - technology-savvy) with low cost and easy access.

"The burden of chronic disease falls disproportionately on safety-net populations, so it's imperative that we explore ways in which we can use new technologies to lower cost and improve quality and access," comments Margaret Laws, director of the Innovations for the Underserved Programme at the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), which provided support for the NEHI report.

In the US, more than 75% of total national medical spending goes on chronic diseases, and nearly half of all American adults are living with at least one such condition, according to NEHI president Wendy Everett. "These 11 emerging technologies hold the promise of greatly helping them manage their disease and connect with their doctors in real time," she comments.

They have the potential to extend patient care beyond a doctor's office to places where patients spend a great deal of their time, are also helping physicians to get real-time data about their patients and, in some cases, to share resources where staffing or financial constraints limit proper chronic disease management, Ms Everett added.

Of the 11 technologies identified in the report, she considers that the most significant evidence of clinical and financial benefits is available for extended care eVisits, home telehealth and tele-stroke care. None of these has the problem of high cost as a potential barrier to use, while they leverage mobile and telehealth technology and social media for monitoring patient health and also allow for the collection of aggregate data, she said, according to a report in Healthcare IT News.