Can Tech Reduce Your Health Care Costs?

Can Tech Reduce Your Health Care Costs?
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With the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy, many Americans are wondering how they are going to pay for health insurance next year. Hardest hit will be people who have ongoing medical expenses, such as patients with diabetes or think of pregnant moms, who have to contend with numerous office visits.

Tech can offer a solution.

"There's an app for that" has become something of a punchline these days. Everything, it seems, can be done with a smartphone, from shopping for groceries to making your car payments. Health, thus far, has been under-represented in this revolution. Right now all most people do is track their running pace, cycling speed, or the number of stairs they can climb. So much more is possible.

As any expecting mom knows, taking proper care of yourself when pregnant can get expensive. OB-GYN practices, too, are looking to manage costs, and they are facing a lot of uncertainty next year. What will their insurance company reimbursements be like? Some forward looking practices are looking to tech to help manage costs and track patients. The Center for Innovation at the Mayo Clinic has been testing a program called OB Nest that intends to give patients "care at a distance" via remote monitoring of vital signs and metrics. A startup out of Washington, DC called Babyscripts is working with health care providers in Washington, Florida, and other states to provide new digital tools for pregnancy. Babyscripts (a client of mine) has what it calls a "Mommy Kit," a WiFi and Bluetooth enabled monitoring package that allows a doctor to check up on a pregnant mom without an office visit.

With mobile remote platforms like Babyscripts, maternity care providers and pregnant women meaningfully interact between office visits. Doctors can keep watch over real-time readings from weight scales, blood pressure monitors and glucometers. All the patient needs is a smartphone, and doctors can get a better picture of a patient's health status.

Common Sensing is another promising app for remote monitoring. Its founders are bringing a smart cap for insulin pens to market called the Gocap. The Gocap is a tool created with the intent of helping people improve glycemic control. (Glycemic control is a medical term referring to the typical levels of blood sugar [glucose] in a person with diabetes.) The Gocap generates an insulin logbook that can be shared wirelessly with doctors, care providers and family. It syncs data with every dose of insulin. This is important to patients because insulin can be dangerous if misused.

In both examples, the difference tech makes can involve serious health issues, and certainly affect a patient's quality of life.

Exciting changes are coming as more personalized forms of health care come into focus, a development that medical professionals are calling precision medicine. If vital signs can be remotely monitored, then doctors can have more accurate, up to the minute information about their patients. It's a market and a technology to watch in 2017.

But you don't have to wait until next year. In December, Babyscripts is teaming with Florida Hospital's Innovation Lab to create a conference about remote monitoring. At the Future of Obstetrics Summit, leaders in obstetrics, patient care, remote patient monitoring, and data science will explore the challenges medical experts face in providing precision care to pregnant mothers, discuss what providers can do to improve care, and look at the best tech tools to accomplish these important goals.

That conference might just be a glimpse of the future, and we can look forward to more as application developers team up with doctors to make better medical care for patients.

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