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Is Mobile Medical The Answer to ACA?

By Reina V. Slutske Since the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been turning to accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to help ease the transition. This has left a lot of device companies in a lurch, as they no longer can go directly to physicians for purchasing decisions.

However, there are lots of new opportunities in terms of mobility devices, according to Dr. James Mault, founder of HealthyCircles, a care coordination software service recently acquired by Qualcomm Life, where he serves as chief medical officer. “The opportunity for the medical device industry is exciting, because of the needs and the drivers pay attention to the devices that are coming home,” he says.

In an ACO system, a physician and hospital is not paid based on a visit, but rather on the effective nature of treatment. Under that organizational system, Mault says that the approach and rules are changing so that it’s more vital for a caretaker to monitor a patient. There is a lot more incentive to hospitals to provide the results necessary for good health than in the previous health care system.

However, he added, doctors or offices may not have the time to monitor their patients as closely as they should. It is in this that mobile devices and other intelligent systems, which can be used to track metrics and then be able to send them onward to caretakers, can show their strength. Each blood pressure reading that come back abnormal is flagged and brought to the attention of a doctor or nurse, who can adjust treatments accordingly.

“This whole concept is called exception management,” Mault says. “In medicine, we call it triage. [It] is going to be a tremendous enabler for accountable care organizations, who are concerned about readmissions, and [it] will help them take care of more patients at a fraction of the cost.”

According to Rick Valencia, general manager of Qualcomm Life, there are a lot of types of devices that can take advantage of this technology, and quite a few that have already started, such as glucose monitoring. It’s one of the reasons why the company developed its 2net hub and acquired HealthyCircles as its platform. It will be able to engage any device that has the capability for connectivity, as well as connect information from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and patients. “These solutions help them address problems,” he says.

Valencia believes that these devices should be built for plug and play in order to keep them easily usable. However, although companies have been starting to experiment, don’t expect a drastic change, as there are still some kinks to work out, such as shelf life. Some wireless devices have about a year or two of life in them before an upgrade is necessary, whereas some devices can last 10 to 15 years.

“One of the things that we promote heavily is continua standards,” he says, adding that the interoperability of devices allow them to talk to one another more and can get better results.

Part of it is device companies partnering with technology companies, Valencia says, as they have the expertise so device companies can focus on expansion. “[We] can help healthcare companies do what they do best,” he says.

Reina V. Slutske is the assistant editor for MD+DI.

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