For the past two months, Ken Margon EWL director has been Stateside, meeting up with potential partners and clients in the connected healthcare industry with Eric Luther, President of Sales and Marketing. Their road trip included pit stops in Boston for the Health Symposium 2011,and more recently a trip down to Washington DC in December for the mHealth Summit 2011 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre.
Washington, 5 Dec 2011 -“You’re familiar with digitalizing books and magazines, but now we’re talking about digitizing man, and that’s the future of medicine.” Dr Eric Topol, took to the stage in the mHealth Summit 2011, dramatically asserting that mobile health technology at our disposal promised greater controls over our health in the near future.
Still in its early years, the mHealth Summit 2011 however has nonetheless grown into one of the largest meeting of healthcare and tech industry leaders worldwide. US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, set the tone pointing out that while America has “some of the best medical care in the world…Americans still live sicker and die sooner than many of the people in other nations”. She urged for greater urgency in adopting mobile health as it represents the “ biggest technology breakthrough of all time and using it to address our greatest national challenge”, referring to the healthcare crisis in her address.
Across the States, many of the companies Ken and Eric met, both healthcare practioners and managed care providers, are facing up to those same issues – how best to migrate from their present infrastructure and adopt the new technology at their disposal.
Keynote address by Dr Eric Topol, Vice Chairman of West Wireless Health Institute, was a worthy performance which included a demo of him performing an echocardiogram on himself using an iPhone and giving himself an ultrasound by reaching under his shirt with a hand-held device called a Vscan and some hotel-room lotion – “I haven’t used a stethescope in two years. Why would you listen to a heart when you have an ultrasound in your pocket?”. Topol pointed out the enormous strides mobile has made among healthcare practitioners, echoing a report by Pew Internet & American Life Project that 11 percent of American adult cell phone users have downloaded an app to help them monitor health.
Remote patient monitoring featured heavily on the radar during the summit. Future changes to Medicare is expected to greatly limit the number of home visits. As a result patients are expected to get less time with doctors, thus pushing for greater reliance on remote patient monitoring.
A key feature of the Zilant Health Server, remote patient monitoring facilitates near field connectivity with multiple devices using Bluetooth technology to capture data from devices and transmit it over the cloud for remote access. Delivering care management over the cloud aims at supporting an independent lifestyle for the elderly or those with chronics diseases to better manage their diseases. This enables primary caregivers to monitor patients in their homes, allows hospitals to better allocate resources and gives greater independence to patients in manage their disease.
Such remote care is intended to complement, not replace replace doctor patient relationships by enabling better disease management using connected devices such as smart phones, where a doctor will be able to easily monitor and track patient goals.
Dr. Joseph Kvedar of the Center for Connected Health shared his vision of healthcare removed from hospitals and delivered into the patient’s home. Primary caregivers would have access to information stream to collaborate with patients and care teams while patients would be empowered to manage their own healthcare and communicate via mobile devices for treatment decisions.
Improving disease management was one of the talking points at the summit – the role of mobile health in empowering patients to be more pro active in disease management by creating more transparency in their dealings with primary care providers.
In his keynote speech John Stratton of Verizon Wireless talked about the prevalence and growing costs of chronic disease. He cited the example of diabetic patients who undertake 95% of the care themselves and argued that chronic diseases can be managed largely by patients using mobile health devices to support lifestyle choices with better impact on compliance.
Clear regulatory framework for incentivizing mHealth and protecting privacy
One of the points of interest for Embedded Wireless Labs at the summit was a regulatory incentives aimed at helping healthcare providers adopt mobile health technology, an issue that frequently cropped up in our meetings with device makers and providers, The summit scored a big point on this issue when Stephen Ondra, Department of Veterans Affairs’ spokesperson for Health Affairs, promised incentives for accountable care organizations that reduced costs. Centres for Medicaid and Medicare are also expected to roll out a value-based payment model to focus on the quality of care, not just the cost.
Along with this, government agencies such as the FDA have been stepping up efforts to engage industry in a dialogue in order to understand regulatory needs in testing and certifying devices.
Donna Ramos-Johnson, DCPCA stressed the need to ensure providers are incentivized to treat patients using easily available tools such as mobile phones which are the only means of Internet access for most minorities.
Summit attendees also revealed a need for clear regulatory framework to address privacy and interoperability issues. A major hurdle was the question of privacy and how much control patients have over who sees their personal health information due to the widespread use of mobile healthcare. According to the Kalorama’s report, “Remote and Wireless Patient Monitoring Markets”, the wireless monitoring device industry in the US doubled in the past four years to a current value of $7.1 billion and is expected to triple in four years to $22.2 billion by 2015. There clearly needs to be a concerted effort to set guidelines and privacy rules about how data can be used.
The three days of high level keynote sessions, networking and interactions at the mHealth Summit 2011 brought critical issues surrounding business, clinical research, and policy perspectives into sharp focus and produced greater dialogue within the industry in order to find a way forward.
– Report by EWL Marketing. Images by EWL and Wikimedia.