What’s The ROI Of A Smartphone Given To Patients With A Chronic Health Condition?
August 20, 2014
Thanks to a pilot project announced today by Microsoft MSFT +0.6%, TracFone and Health Choice Network (here) we’re about to find out. Set to launch in January, the pilot project is designed to test the theory that smartphones can lower costs and manage chronic conditions like diabetes with better health outcomes.
One big hurdle has always been working with under‒served populations like those enrolled in Medicaid (or the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act), so this pilot is designed to address that head-on.
At the core is a Nokia Lumia 520 handset which will be given to 100 Medicaid patients from several Health Choice Network (HCN) community health centers in the Miami area. These (opt-in) patients will be pre-screened to have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and the goal will be to use the fully functional smartphone to help with the long-term management of their diabetes.
As the pilot expands, other devices may also be used, but the base platform is designed to include all the Microsoft software necessary for these patients to update their personal health record (HealthVault), communicate securely with the care team (Office 365) and allow for the remote management of the device in the event that it’s lost or stolen. In that sense, the handset (while fully functional as a smartphone) has been configured less like a consumer device and more like an extension to the enterprise system that HCN runs for all their community health centers ‒ HIPAA compliant text, email messaging and calendaring included.
“Mobile health devices and wearable tech generally are quickly reduced to expensive gadgets if they don’t lower healthcare costs or improve patient outcomes. Newer mobile health solutions must be designed to integrate technology, people and processes to deliver clinical results that are measurable. With that in mind, we’re proud to launch the pilot of Microsoft’s mobile health management platform which brings together a full-spectrum solution in a way that delivers better care to those with chronic health conditions.” Steve Aylward ‒ General Manager for Microsoft Health and Life Sciences Solutions
TracFone Wireless is America’s largest “No Contract” cellular service provider (over 25 million subscribers) and is a subsidiary of the largest cell phone company in all of the Americas (over 240 million subscribers) ‒ América Móvil.
“We see this as an opportunity to expand our successful texting programs into the next evolution of smartphones and applications in the healthcare ecosystem. By enabling patients to proactively manage their own health, under a secure platform, and connecting them to information and resources, patients will be able to enhance their own quality of life. Microsoft’s commitment to the health care segment and TracFone’s model of providing affordable mobile devices makes this a natural partnership for this market.” Elizabeth Simonhoff ‒ Senior Manager of Healthcare, TracFone Wireless, Inc.
The Miami area patients will be selected from community health clinics under management by HCN. Founded in 1994, HCN is a not‒for‒profit network of community health centers that operates in 17 states for over 760,000 patients ‒ largely for those under‒served or in Medicaid .
It’s a bold experiment using a powerful mobile health solution customized for a targeted population. As noted investor and health thought leader Esther Dyson said (over 5 years ago):
It will be awhile before we see tangible results, but I suspect they could easily rival the one I wrote about last year. In that case a CIO was asked by his Board to calculate the ROI of an iPad for use by clinicians inside a hospital. While the study was far from scientific, the CIO did some time‒motion analysis with wages across clinical workflows to arrive at a presentable figure for Board approval. His rough calculation for the ROI of an iPad inside his hospital was 9 days.
At the time I wrote that story I openly wondered what the health effects (and ROI) would be of a smartphone in the hands of a patient with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes. Thanks to this pilot implementation ‒ we’re all about to find out.