Summit 2011 Coverage: Making mHealth a reality

May 10, 2011 More

WLSA Summit: Making mHealth a Reality
Reposted from Wireless Week
By Marie Ramsay
May 9, 2011

Getting wireless healthcare technology out of the concept phase and into the hands of patients and physicians will be the main focus of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance’s (WLSA) sixth annual Convergence Summit this week, which runs from May 10 to May 12 in San Diego.

The summit provides a venue where executives from the wireless industry and healthcare field can brainstorm ways wireless technology can make the healthcare industry work better for patients, as well as address continuing obstacles to the technology’s adoption by physicians and patients.

“The wireless industry is willing and able to sell to the healthcare industry without a lot of prodding, but the healthcare industry has to understand how to use the device first,” says Qualcomm mHealth chief Don Jones, who founded the WLSA in 2005 and now serves as chairman of the non-profit’s board of directors.

Attendees of the event will certainly have a lot to talk about. Doctors are increasingly using smartphones and tablets – namely Apple’s iPad – to help them access information on their rounds. Consumers are also turning to wireless technology to help them reach their healthcare goals, from apps that monitor calorie intake to wearable body monitors that track heart rate and exercise.

However, many healthcare providers have remained reticent to incorporate unproven new wireless technologies into their practices. They want proof that mHealth solutions will improve the efficiency of clinics, reduce costs and improve outcome for patients before they invest in the technology.
“I view wireless technology as a tool. Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean everything is a nail,” says Mike Martino, senior vice president of innovation and strategy at CareFusion, a member of the WLSA. “We as a community need to discipline ourselves to focus on areas where there’s data showing that hooking someone up with wireless adds value and outcomes for the patient. We need to focus on where the returns are going to be.”
Martino cautions against leaping feet-first into wireless healthcare solutions without first understanding whether the technology will be effective for both patients and providers. As healthcare costs mount, it is especially important to ensure that new technologies are cost-effective, yielding significant reductions in costs for physicians while improving results for patients.
It remains difficult for companies to get new wireless technologies approved by insurers. Some companies looking to get into the mHealth space are bypassing insurers altogether, bringing their products straight to consumers instead of waiting for them to be accepted first by the insurance industry.

Dr. Richard Migliori, chief medical officer of WLSA member company OptumHealth, is confident that wireless technology can – and will – make healthcare more efficient and more effective.
He says that wireless technology can give patients greater access to important information about their own health and their healthcare providers so they can make better decisions.
“Consumer electronics are important adjuncts to the improvement of the healthcare system,” Migliori says. Migliori will be delivering a keynote address at the summit.

For instance, Optum estimates that orthopedic surgeons can have a 20 percent difference in the cost of case based on the complication rate. Optum has developed a tool that allows patients to find the highest-performing doctors near their location, and translated that tool into an app. The company believes that patients, given easy access to information about physicians, will pick doctors and surgeons with the best ratings, leading to lower rates of complication and reducing subsequent medical costs.

The WLSA was founded to open dialogue between the wireless industry and the healthcare industry. The goal was to convey to physicians and insurers how wireless technology could improve patient outcomes and clinical results.

Together with Johnson & Johnson, Qualcomm sent out the first invitations to the WLSA’s first summit in May 2006. Jones says about 135 top-level executives from the healthcare industry showed up to the event to learn about wireless technology.

The WLSA’s summit has stayed intimate and has retained its focus on sharing ideas, versus showcasing new products. About 400 executives from the wireless and healthcare industry are expected to attend this year’s event, which will feature keynote addresses from Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo and Donald Dempsey from Marwood Group, among others.

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