The CEO of Netherlands-based Royal Philips says consumer demand and value-based payment will drive the use of mobile technology that could change patients' behavior.
Philips produces hordes of consumer electronic products, from toothbrushes to consumer-focused health and fitness devices. Some of those items are equipped with wireless communication technology, and more of those are on the way, said Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, who talked about these plans this week at the Radiological Society of North America convention.
Philips' healthcare customers, providers and patients alike, don't want mere devices, they want complete systems to achieve a goal, van Houten said.
“I still would predict many years before we reach 100% (use of mobile by providers and home health), if ever. But now is the time to build the ecosystems, to gain insights and be really good at it,” he added.
Mobile health, particularly in the area of home and population health, is “poised for very significant growth,” said Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group, a Menlo Park, Calif., market research firm. Lower device costs and increased wireless bandwidth are minor factors, Malkary said. The switch to performance-based reimbursement is the key driver.
The Veterans Health Administration, the healthcare arm of the Veterans Affairs Department, has been “leading the charge with remote monitoring and home telehealth and telemedicine,” Malkary said. It has an integrated delivery system with decades of experience in electronic health records and data analytics and the ability to recapture its investment in home health with lower hospitalization costs. Not many other healthcare organizations have those VA advantages.
“Right now, we're definitely in the earlier adopter phase,” Malkary said. “A lot of this will be driven very rapidly by changes in the reimbursement system.”
Indeed, the federal government is promoting new delivery and payment models such as accountable care organizations that will use home-based health monitoring to reduce hospital readmissions and improve wellness and outcomes measures. The federal Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria for EHRs encourage the adoption of personal health records and Web-based portals for patient-reported data. And those analytics likely will feed into big clinical data bases that could guide the delivery of care.
“The CMS is going to start and the other payers will want to follow,” Malkary said.
And Philips and other competitors are ready and willing to provide the tracking tools.
Last month, Philips launched Lumify, a Web-based ultrasound system that runs on smartphones or tablets, using an app and a Philips plug-and-play transducer. The app, transducer and the Web-based service are all available via a monthly subscription fee of $199. The mobile system can be carried by medical students on rounds in hospital wards, or hauled off to the soccer field or basketball court—wherever a patient is.
In the U.S., Philips has learned how to monitor patients with multiple chronic illnesses at home through a pilot program launched by Phoenix-based Banner Health.
Netherlands-based Radboud University Medical Center recently partnered with Philips to introduce a patient mobile app for diabetes control. It connects to the hospital's EHR, the patient's own wearable personal fitness devices and a wireless home glucose monitor. There's also an online community chat for patients and clinicians.
New apps have to undergo a lengthy approval process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That has scared off many developers of mobile technology, but not Philips.
“We agree that (FDA) approval is a good thing,” van Houten said. “A medical-grade appliance is a good thing.” It's also good for their bottom line. The conglomerate reported $25.2 billion in revenues last year, 45% of it came from its healthcare business.