Health

Mobile technology could save billions of dollars on health care costs

mhealth healthbeatSAN FRANCISCO — Mobile devices could save the medical industry and consumers billions of dollars a year.

Mobile health technology provides patients with greater opportunities to manage their diseases and communicate with providers. On stage today at HealthBeat 2013, Ivor Horn of the National Children’s Medical Center (above, center) and Asthmapolis president Mark Gehring (above, right) spoke about the potential for “mHealth” to reach underserved populations and help them take control over their health.

“The key is recognizing how people use technology,” Horn said. “Over 80 percent of patients in underserved populations are willing to receive information via mobile or text, and over 90 percent wanted access to their health information and are open to sharing it back and forth. The two main issues are trust and self-efficacy — the ability to feel like you can accomplish what you want to accomplish is really important and that the information comes from a reliable source.”

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and obesity-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are some of the leading causes of preventable death. The medical costs associated with obesity are in the realm of $150 billion.

Asthma is another pervasive problem. Fifty million people in the U.S. live with chronic respiratory disease, and uncontrolled asthma leads to 500,000 hospitalizations and two million emergency room visits a year. It is a $50 billion problem.

The prevalence of both diseases is higher in low-income populations, and mobile devices can be a powerful vehicle for addressing these problems.

During the discussion with Horn and moderator Robin Strongin, Gehring said that Asthmapolis is not just a mobile app– it is a disease management company that collects data and gives patients tools to improve their clinical outcomes.

“We are redefining the metrics for success,” Gehring said. “This isn’t about downloads. There is a 70 percent reduction in hospitalization for patients using Asthmapolis, and when they do end up in the hospital, they spend 70 percent less time there. This is where the health care system is headed. Our business model is to sell to payers and providers to save them costs, keeping in mind how to save payers and providers money is key.”

Asthmapolis recently raised $5 million from the Social + Capital Partnership to support development of new services to extend its reach to people living with all forms of chronic respiratory disease, not just asthma.

Horn and Gehring emphasized that when building mobile apps, it is important to develop the technology in partnership with the health care system, connecting and providing value to people on all sides, including patients, payers, and health care providers. Ultimately, fewer hospital visits is better for everyone and in addition to eating green vegetables and regular exercise, mobile devices could become part of an integral part of a healthy lifestyle for all segments of the population.

Photo Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat