If patients can monitor their own vital signs and other biometric data at home, and share this with healthcare professionals, we will be able to detect illness earlier, resulting in better treatment, lower costs, and better outcomes. At least, that’s what the hope is. And as we’ve reported here (“IBM Watson Health Producing Big Savings,” “Can Connected Health Devices Save Money?,” and “Telehealth Device Reduces Readmissions,” among other stories), clinical studies have demonstrated some remarkable cost-savings.

Not all studies come up with similar results, however. A new paper published in the PeerJ journal by researchers from the Scripps Translational Science Institute reports the results of their study of mobile health devices to help improve the care for patients with chronic diseases. The trial was based on 160 patients who had one (or more) of three conditions: diabetes, hypertension or arrhythmia. The intervention group received one or more mobile devices suitable for monitoring their conditions, along with an iPhone so that they could report the data. The control group did not get these devices, but both groups were enrolled in a program that provided educational outreach by nursing staff. The paper concludes that “this result suggests there are not large short-term increases or decreases in health care costs or utilization associated with monitoring chronic health conditions using mobile health or digital medicine technologies.”

It would be great if technology could hit a home run every time, but it should not be surprising that some studies will show little or no benefit from using mobile health devices to help monitor patients with chronic conditions. Only after we have amassed data from a range of studies looking at different aspects of the situation will we have information on which we can base reasonable plans for future action.