Increasing access to care and reducing the cost of services may be tenets of the Affordable Care Act, but for tech experts and entrepreneurs, they're also the guiding principles of mobile health.
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday hosted a mobile health innovation expo that included a home heart-monitoring device, a texted pregnancy guide, and an app for private and secure hospital communication.
One health product company, Alere Connect, showcased HomeLink and MobilLink, cellular hubs that use the cloud to transfer patient health readings to a doctor for monitoring and evaluation. They're primarily used for patients with chronic illness, such as congestive heart failure.
"Our goal is to keep patients out of the hospital," said Kent Dicks, CEO of Alere Connect. "We want to avoid readmission by remote monitoring at home."
The products have seen positive test results. Physicians who assign the devices to their patients see a 70 percent reduction in hospital readmittance. While they're not covered by all plans, the devices are roughly $50 per month—a stark contrast to the $3,000 to $5,000 it costs on average for a readmitted patient's hospital stay.
Another product featured at the event, Text4baby, is a free text-messaging service for pregnant women designed to promote maternal health. Mothers can sign up by texting "baby" to 511411 to receive approximately three texts per week. Over 650,000 individuals have enrolled since the service began in 2010, and 95 percent of mothers report they would refer Text4baby to a friend.
"We send information about nutrition, appointments, access to care, developmental milestones, immunizations," said Kathleen Murphy, partner outreach director. "They really enjoy the emotional support. It's kind of like having a supportive and knowledgeable best friend."
Many of the women who enroll live in the poorest parts of the country. Over 50 percent of users are on Medicaid or have kids on the Children's Health Insurance Program, and some 13 percent are uninsured.
While Text4baby and Alere developed consumer-driven products, the mobile health expo also featured products for hospitals.
Medigram is a cloud-based, secure communication platform for mobile devices intended to replace the pager and fax system employed by care facilities across the country to transmit patient and treatment information to doctors.
"With the explosion of smartphone technology, administrators for hospitals are realizing what liabilities texting provides for physicians and for the hospitals as a whole," said Vik Jammalamadaka, chief marketing officer. "Whether Medigram or not, it's becoming clear that this is a problem that needs to be fixed because it is the new face of health care."
Medigram was developed for two reasons: the cost of technological inefficiencies in the health care market, wasting time and resources in hospitals and clinics, and the security risks of transmitting unprotected data.
All three of the products comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA protects the privacy of patients, and the three companies said their products either don't collect enough information about the patient to risk security breaches, or use firewalled barriers when specific data is obtained.