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Health Insurers Expanding the Use of Devices Reporting Data – Wireless Home Units or Sensors Worn to Submit Heart Rate and

Posted Jul 27 2010 10:10am

How connected will we become to monitor our hearts?  That seems to be a big question today and we also need the availability of the receiving end, the doctors and nurses to evaluated and communicate.  This appears to be the move here with insurance companies expanding on the use of monitoring devices.  Two of the technologies mentioned here have been covered at the Quack and you can read more at the links below.

The article states that with the United plan you will have a conversation with your WiFi scale every morning and answer a series of questions.  Of course we all want to know about the privacy side of these devices and the data they send so hopefully we end up with better care and not higher premiums as a result, as don’t think that use of data and information doesn’t somehow enter the “risk” arena too, just keep your eyes and ears open and ask about privacy with the use of devices and where the data is stored. 

Some companies use 3rd parties as a middle person in between the patients and doctors to evaluate information sent so be sure and inquire about who and where the 3rd parties are as many are owned by insurance companies and are combined as “wellness” companies so again your personal information is not going directly to a health insurance company, but do they have access to it from the wellness company they own and how will the information be used for determining premium payments. 

That is the whole issue with devices as such is the information use and assessment, otherwise most would be happy probably to use monitoring devices but there’s a ton of gray here.  In addition, implementation has to be considered as a poorly implemented system with over load with text messages, emails, etc. is not productive either and we have enough on our plates today and are still trying to figure out cell phones and driving so adding on more required interactions that are not simple and perhaps even requiring no attention could be a huge distraction and invasion. 

In some cases company provided insurance actually gives their employees discounts for allowing biometric monitoring so before jumping in too fast, ask a lot of questions and ask them again if you don’t understand so you are informed from the beginning.  The links below describe incentives and how biometric monitoring is used as a “carrot” to entice. 

Wellpoint Enters Contract Agreement with Red Brick for Behavioral Underwriting

Behavioral Underwriting With Biometric Employee Screenings – Red Brick Secures 3 More Clients

With employer benefits too we enter into the area of does the information transfer 24/7 or just during working hours as again this is bringing in the privacy issues and how far can data analysis algorithms go before care gets denied if not used properly.  BD

WellPoint Inc.'s Anthem unit in California is piloting a wireless scale and blood-pressure cuff that communicates in real time with nurses on alert for fluctuations that can signal heart failure, or when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the body's organs. Humana Inc. in January will launch a program to track heart patients' vital signs wirelessly and link them up via video to chat with nurses if appropriate.

And Aetna Inc. is running a clinical trial with Intel Corp. to assess how remote monitoring of vital signs can cut down on unnecessary image hospitalization for heart patients.

The program puts a scale, blood-pressure cuff and glucose monitor into patients' homes and then collects the data daily via wireless or landline. Nurse case managers follow up with the patients if any of the vital signs seem worrisome.

The plan, which specializes in Medicaid and Medicare and is owned by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., says it pays about $6,300 for a Medicaid heart patient's typical hospital stay. The plan foots the bill for the remote monitoring system, which is rented and worth approximately $626.

Both Humana and WellPoint are incorporating video-chat into their approaches to connect members more closely with nurses. UnitedHealth's wireless scale asks a series of questions in the morning and evening that are followed up by nurses and doctors if appropriate. "The relationship between the consumer and doctor is primary," said Sam Meckey, chief operating officer for disease solutions at UnitedHealth's OptumHealth unit.

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Another approach being tested by device maker CardioMEMS Inc. uses an implantable sensor device to measure pulmonary artery pressure and wirelessly transmit readings to a secure Web site for doctors and nurses. The idea is to detect changes and intervene before the patient has to be hospitalized. The wireless transmitter resulted in a 30% reduction in hospitalization for heart-failure patients, the study of 550 patients released last month showed.

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