Last month, top health care investors and entrepreneurs came together with hospital, payor and government leaders at a conference sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Healthcare Management Alumni Association to discuss the restructuring of the health care system. Jonathan Blum, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center of Medicare participated on a panel about about macro health care system changes and one of the key take aways was not surprisingly, that change in the health care system is all about the data. Continue reading Medicare and Health Care Reform: Why Isn’t Real Time Data a Priority?
Health care payors (plans, insurers) are emerging quickly as one of the dominant players in the mobile health (mHealth) marketplace. Apps to exchange information with patients regarding appointment reminders, to coordinated care among various providers for diabetes and other conditions, and to provide patients with personal health records (PHRs) are becoming all the rage. Payors command a unique place in the healthcare industry; not only do they receive and distribute the healthcare dollars but they maintain deep files of information on the consumers whose care they pay for. With their reserves of funds, payors are also uniquely positioned to invest in the use of mobile health in the delivery of health care. They can develop and distribute apps from basic-to-sophisticated, from those that merely provide good diet tips to beneficiaries, to those that collect and transmit critical health data to physicians and other providers. They can also incentivize beneficiaries to adopt mHealth solutions by, for instance, offering to reduce premiums in exchange for compliant behavior. Further, the employers who pay for health coverage may incentivize, or penalize, employees that do not utilize mHealth tools offered by payors.
The Minnesota Attorney General is on a mission to eliminate over-aggressive debt collection behavior in the hospital industry. Her target is Accretive Health, Inc., a national company that provides support services to hospitals in Minnesota and other states on debt collection and revenue cycle management using sophisticated data analysis tools. Already other states have announced investigations, and federal investigations are likely to follow. The AG has also raised issues regarding the health system that used Accretive, Fairview Health Services, a nine-hospital system in Minnesota. Any hospital that outsources collections, revenue cycle management and related financial activities, or even performs them in-house, should closely review its compliance with best practices, including the AHA’s Statement on Hospital Billing and Collection Practices, agreed to in writing by many hospitals some years ago.
The relationship between privacy and mobile applications is coming into focus. On February 27, 2012, the California Attorney General entered into a Joint Statement of Principles with the six largest mobile application companies – Apple, Google, H-P, Microsoft, Amazon and RIM – regarding consumer privacy and transparency issues when data is collected through an app. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n2647_agreement.pdf. The Five Principles set parameters for good practice. Although not legally binding, the AG promises to review compliance in the fall, and may use California laws on privacy, false advertising, unfair business practices and others as enforcement tools. Since California often leads the way in privacy enforcement it is likely that other states will follow suit.
We live in the data age where every day a new technology is announced in business- and consumer-oriented ecommerce and mobile health (mhealth). In response, in recent years, federal and state legislators have enacted strict data privacy and security laws, such as HIPAA, COPPA, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley, to protect data whether in electronic (IT) or physical form. This data is known as protected health information under HIPAA and personally identifiable information under other statutes. New federal and state laws also mandate comprehensive data breach responses, including notifications to individuals whose PHI or PII was breached and some agencies and state attorneys general. The shared premise behind these laws is that the public expects the highest standard of data protection from businesses and government. (Whether or not this is true – after all we regularly give our credit card numbers to anonymous persons over the phone – is a subject for another day…)
‘Mobile health’ (mHealth), which is defined loosely as health care delivered wirelessly, is set to transform health care. A perfect example is the Ford Motor Company’s ‘Car That Cares,’ which it announced at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The car’s in-vehicle health monitoring system was developed through a collaboration with Microsoft, BlueMetal Architects, and Healthrageous and is designed to support passengers’ personal health and disease management programs. The vehicle’s dashboard is equipped to collect real time biometric and other data, along with voice inputs, to help the passenger comply with his or her health and wellness program through digital coaching (“How much did you eat for breakfast? Did you take your pills?”). The system can also wirelessly connect to other health-related smartphone apps and portable medical devices such as a car seat that measures blood pressure, to alert the passenger to health changes. These apps and devices can then connect to the passenger’s health care provider and electronic health record. The Car That Cares is still in the research phase, giving the public and the regulators time to catch up with this new concept.