Monday, September 13, 2010

Mobile Health Tech Study: Get Linked

A new PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute survey says that physicians recognize that mobile health technologies can help with patience adherence issues, physician shortages and other long-standing healthcare problems.

The results of the Healthcare unwired survey, which involved 1,000 physicians and 2,000 consumers, suggest that physicians and the public alike are ready for mobile health technologies. But PWC says various stakeholders, including some in industry, are essentially ignoring this news. The primary reason: The way the U.S. health care system makes its money. Because only in-person consults are reimbursed, the system is dependent on volume to make its money, so it is not likely to embrace the idea of reducing that volume or transferring that model to lower-cost care -- Americans feel they are entitled to the best healthcare.

According to the survey results, most physicians said they would like to receive healthcare data from their patients’ smart phones or cell phones. (Three out of 10 consumers surveyed were good with tracking it that way.) While these might not seem like big numbers, this is the start of the innovators' curve and this country will reach the tipping point. Our goal is to make our readers aware this "IS" coming and like many other changes, try not to let these opportunities slip by.

We believe that receiving such data could help with patient adherence, 88% of the physicians polled said they would want their patients to monitor certain numbers at home, especially blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight. Moreover, 57% of the physicians said they’d like to receive similar data from discharged patients under their care -- this lack of data is one of the biggest issues in medicine today and causes millions of dollars in inefficient care.

A few years ago, physicians, as a group, were not technologically in tune. But that has changed. In this survey, 63% said they are using personal devices to help their patients – and these devices aren’t connected to hospitals or their practices. Of those using smart phones and cell phones, 56% said the technology quickens the decision-making process, and 40% said these tools shave time spent on administration.

And time is what it’s all about: 45% of the doctors said Internet visits would allow more patient access, and 43% said mobile health technologies like e-mail and texting could reduce actual office visits. The gains, PWC says, would be huge. They could:

• help with physician shortages;

• reduce costs of hospital readmissions; and

• increase access for those patients who put off care because they won’t wait for an appointment.

The actual study (you'll need to register to get it) points out two (pharma and retail pharma) members that are tapping into this market: Bayer and CVS Caremark. Bayer has integrated its digital glucose monitor, DIDGET, into the Nintendo game console. And CVS has an iPhone app that allows members to get information on refills and other pertinent information.

Our point is that the industry needs to embrace change, especially technological change like the ubiquitous use of mobile phone technology.  

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