Mobile Health Technology Can Save Thousands of Dollars

Among the new technologies showcased by the FCC are services to improve hospital readmissions and maternal care.

MobilLink and HomeLink, two devices created by Alere, are used to transmit patient data from the home to the hospital and reduce time and money spent in facilities.
National Journal
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Clara Ritger
Dec. 6, 2013, 1:01 p.m.

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.

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