Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 05, 2012

mHealth to Figure Prominently in Reform Efforts

Experts say there are many ways the healthcare infrastructure will benefit from digital and mobile health technologies.

According to one, David Lee Scher, MD, and founder of The Digital Health Center, bringing tens of millions of new insured participants into the healthcare system will certainly put some pressure on our resources for a while.

But thanks to mobile technology programs, like telemedicine, where patients are linked with providers through PCs, phones, tablets and smartphones to receive care, Medicaid providers may find it easier to communicate with new enrollees, he writes. “It would be much easier to provide public service announcements which include how to download an app to enroll or obtain information on benefits than to hire thousands of customer service representatives creating countless hours of telephone waiting time and the purchase of streamed music for the wait.”

And don’t forget the much more sophisticated data tracking and analytics that will be required for ACOs and others “adopting bundled and outcomes-based payments,” he adds. He maintains that the collection of this type of data will determine whether hospitals, providers and payers live or die. Without the detailed data – following patients, supplies, and provider performance – reimbursement, facility and provider ratings, and transitional clinical care plans when patients are discharged may just not be available.

Scher predicts that the increased demand for mHealth will result in a more industry-friendly regulatory process, even force the government to create unique regulatory processes for mHealth. The FDA has already dipped a toe in the waters of identifying medical devices with a bar code, for easier recalls and targeting devices that may fail.

Especially important in this new age of reform are health information exchanges (HIEs). I must confess that I’m not completely sure what they are, but in many states, including mine, Connecticut, they’re already being set up. The idea behind them is to create a seamless flow of information between providers and patients in geographic areas. Scher predicts HIEs will be critical for Medicaid success, as most of the uninsured, who will be enrolling, are currently Medicaid recipients.

Finally, mHealth apps will help in the scheduling of appointments, coordinating resources, and finding physicians, hospitals and other providers.  Some medical organizations are now offering ways for patients to hook up with doctors over their smartphones for treatment without coming to the office. 

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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