Personal Health Technologies Help to Answer the $4.6 Trillion Dollar Question

Below is a guest blog post from Eric Dishman, Intel Fellow and General Manager of the Intel Health & Life Sciences Group. If you will be at HIMSS14, be sure to attend his educational session (#74) on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 10 a.m. in Room #320. During his talk, Eric will share his own experience battling cancer and the lessons he learned about the importance of a customized care treatment plan. In addition, Dell’s Chief Medical Officer Andrew Litt, M.D., will join Eric for a discussion on the future of genomics and personalized medicine. Find out more information and read the latest blog posts on health IT in the Intel Health and Life Sciences Community. 

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In the currently raging debates about healthcare, there’s little attention to population aging and the cost of care — two critical trends that I call the $4.6 trillion question.

By 2020, there will be 55 million Americans over age 65, reflecting a global population aging trend that could be as important to our future as global climate change.  Also by 2020, according to federal government projections, the nation’s healthcare costs will be $4.6 trillion, close to doubling in a decade.

One of the ways we must respond to these trends is to use technologies that enable a model I call “care anywhere.” Thanks to a range of personal health technologies available now—mobile health (mHealth) capabilities for smart phones and tablets, telehealth technologies for remote patient monitoring and virtual visits, intelligent software assistants for prompting and coaching, and social technologies for connecting patients, families, and providers in powerful new ways—we have the opportunity to move away from costly, institution-centric care delivery for the majority of needs.

The core necessity is this: care must occur at home as the default model, not in a hospital or a clinic. We need this to curb escalating costs, increase access and improve patient experience and outcomes.

Policy makers are paying attention.  Last month, committees in both the House and Senate passed Medicare reform through Sustained Growth Rate (SGR) bills with bipartisan support, encouraging greater interoperability and data exchange for electronic health records (EHRs). And a discussion of telehealth measures led to an agreement between the Congressional Budget Office director and Senate to work together on how to estimate savings, an issue that has plagued telehealth and mHealth for years. 

But even with all of the excitement, reforms and investment activity around mHealth, the promise of care anywhere – made possible by mobile technologies, data analytics and real-time connectivity – is far from being realized.

I think about the importance of care anywhere from three perspectives:

  • As a patient who tried to force in-home, mobile and virtual care models for myself while undergoing cancer and chronic kidney disease treatment for 24 years, my fight was not just against cancer but against a flawed healthcare system. 
  • As a social scientist who has studied the cultures of healthcare innovation, I have seen the many challenges we must overcome to redefine the roles of patient, caregiver and provider.
  • And as a business executive responsible for health innovation opportunities globally, I have learned a lot from other parts of the world that are deploying social, political and technical infrastructure for care anywhere.  

A new Intel study found that more and more people are feeling empowered through new technology tools to become fuller participants in their own care. More than half of the respondents globally believe the traditional hospital will become obsolete in the future.

Today, technology is reducing unnecessary emergency room trips using real-time video collaboration between patients, EMTs and doctors and reducing doctor office visits with innovations such as in-home blood pressure, ultrasound and eye tests that instantly send information from your smartphone to your doctor.

In Indianapolis, where cardiac patients were treated using remote care technology, St. Vincent’s Hospital saw a 75 percent decrease in hospital readmissions, proving that care anywhere can take costs out of the system and better support patient recovery.

In the future, doctors will be able to track patients’ health instantaneously through ingestible tracking devices in their bodies. More than 70 percent of respondents in our research are even receptive to using tools like toilet sensors, prescription bottle sensors and swallowed monitors.

But no amount of technology innovation investment alone can help us mainstream mHealth. We need a shared roadmap and strategy to create a movement around these care models. Remote care will never gain momentum without laws that allow doctors to be reimbursed for effective patient care no matter how it is delivered.

Medicare reform through the SGR includes telehealth as a method for physicians to transition to alternate payment models. Reform should provide incentives to use advanced technology innovation, when appropriate. As Congress makes needed changes in payment, let’s take this opportunity to make bold changes in the way people access care. By expanding telehealth reimbursement for all chronically ill patients in their homes, not only will patients benefit, but the United States will see a reduction in Medicare costs.

The Wyden-Isakson-Paulsen-Welch Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014, introduced last week, offers a targeted approach for providers to focus on chronic care management by offering preventive services through new technologies such as telehealth.  This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would encourage providers to coordinate care and reward them for achieving healthy outcomes rather than for the number of services they provide. It’s about time we change the formula for smart care and payment in the United States

Our nation is aging and traditional healthcare costs are unsustainable. Technology advancement has outpaced our laws. Patients have told us that they are ready to embrace care anywhere. It is time for policy makers to help patients, their families and a broader range of health workers innovate answers to the $4.6 trillion dollar question.

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Bio:

Photo of Eric Eric Dishman
Intel Fellow and General Manager of the Health & Life Sciences Group, Intel Corporation

Eric Dishman is an Intel Fellow and General Manager of the Health & Life Sciences Group, responsible for driving Intel's strategy, R&D, new product and policy initiatives for health and life science solutions.  

He is known for pioneering techniques that incorporate anthropology, ethnography, and other social science methods into the design and development of new technologies. Eric’s organization focuses on growth opportunities for Intel in health IT, genomics & personalized medicine, consumer wellness, and care coordination technologies.   

Laura Pevehouse

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of Dell.com, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.