WLSA’s Convergence Summit: Is The Healthcare Revolution Here Yet?

June 4, 2012 | Reply More

To borrow a punchline from a recent television advertisement, new wireless technology in healthcare is so 42 seconds ago.

The technology is out there, being tested and used, said Robert McCray, president and chief executive officer of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance. Speaking before close to 300 people on the first day of the WLSA’s 7th Annual Wireless Health Convergence Summit, he said healthcare executives face a new challenge.

“We have plenty of resources – that’s why technology is not the issue today,” he said. “It’s what we do with it.”

The prevailing theme during many of sessions at Wednesday’s conference was adoption. Physicians aren’t embracing wireless technology – be it mobile health, digital health, telehealth, telemedicine, e-health or any of a dozen different monikers – and few payers are willing to reimburse its use. That leaves entrepreneurs and providers struggling to find sustainable business plans and prove ROI.

Still, McCray said, “health is becoming cool.” And examples of successful and innovative wireless health programs are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

David Sayen, a regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, said CMS is pushing several programs that seek to refine how healthcare is delivered, including accountable care organizations, bundled care programs, the Comprehensive Primary Care (CPC) initiative, value-based purchasing, the Partnership for Patients and the Health Care Innovation Challenge, which recently issued 26 grants to innovative programs across the nation.

He said America’s healthcare system is evolving from one of episodic, non-integrated care to one focused on accountable care, and will someday focus on integrated healthcare. That evolution, he added, is prompting providers, payers and the patient to join forces and learn new methods of providing healthcare and improving clinical outcomes.

Much of that integration is channeled through digital tools like smartphone and tablets, said Leslie Saxon, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and host of USC’s annual Body Computing Conference. Those tools, she said, are taking control of the healthcare system out of the hands of providers and giving patients the power to manage their own healthcare.

That “ruthlessly efficient worldwide network,” she said, is prompting the nation’s healthcare system to put the patient first, with the doctor in a supporting rule.

That technology is also pushing healthcare out of the hospital and into remote clinics and the home, where so-called “smart” devices can gather a patient’s vital signs and other data and wirelessly transmit that data back to a physician or other caregiver. Those innovations, said Paul N. Gorup, chief of innovation, senior vice president and co-founder of the Cerner Corporation, will someday create entire connected communities.

“We’re willing to take this idea of ‘smart’ to the next level,” he said.

Those ideas are bringing new players into the field. Andy Donner, a partner in the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Physic Ventures, said retailers and other businesses are investing in healthcare as they see the value in health and wellness. That includes PepsiCo, whose management has pledged by 2020 to add $20 billion in health and wellness products to their stable of sodas, drinks and snacks.

Margaret Dohnalek, PhD, the global head of technology scouting for PepsiCo, said this “revolution of the shopping cart” is being driven by the patient, who, armed with digital devices and access to healthcare information, wants to have a say in his or her own healthcare.

“The consumer owns the future,” she said.

Whether the consumer, the insurance industry or the government pays for these advances remains to be seen. Sonny Vu, chief executive officer and founder of Misfit Wearables, said he’s not yet convinced that mobile technology will lead to a healthcare “revolution.” And Jim Sweeney, chairman and chief executive officer of PatientSafe, bluntly pointed out that the government isn’t throwing any support behind these technologies, so that reimbursement remains the biggest issue.

And that, said McCray, might just as well lead to the “revolution” in healthcare, with institutional barriers knocked down by an enlightened public.

Written by Eric Wicklund, as retrieved 06/04/12

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