Verizon, Qualcomm, NIH Partner On Telemedicine - InformationWeek

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12/20/2011
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Verizon, Qualcomm, NIH Partner On Telemedicine

Remote monitoring aims to prevent hospital readmissions, reduce treatment costs for rural Arizona heart failure patients.

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Qualcomm, Verizon Wireless, and wireless medical device maker Zephyr Technology are joining with the National Institutes of Health to help a hospital remotely monitor congestive heart failure (CHF) patients in large sections of sparsely populated Northern Arizona.

Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., will employ home monitoring devices and smartphones to keep tabs on 50 patients that have been hospitalized with CHF or a related heart condition and are at high risk of readmission. Many of the candidates live on Native American reservations or in other rural areas that may not have landlines, running water, or reliable electricity, according to Gigi Sorenson, the hospital's director of telemedicine. Nor do they have easy access to ongoing care for their chronic diseases.

The Flagstaff program, called Care Beyond Walls and Wires, will provide wireless pulse oximeters, blood-pressure cuffs, and weight scales from Annapolis, Md.-based Zephyr Technology to participants in their homes. Some patients might also receive devices that measure respiration, skin temperature, posture, and physical activity.

All will be given Motorola Droid X smartphones with 3G mobile connectivity on the Verizon network. The phones will be loaded with a mobile application to help patients collect data from the monitoring devices and then upload the readings to the hospital.

[ For background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch.]

Sorenson told InformationWeek Healthcare that Flagstaff Medical Center enrolled the first participant a week ago. It took that individual 4.5 minutes to download and forward data from his monitors the first time he tried. "Today, it took him one minute," Sorenson said a few days later.

Participants are expected to send readings daily for three to six months following discharge from the hospital. Flagstaff has hired a nurse manager to track the patients and assist them with their care. This will include helping patients stay on prescribed medications and providing fast response if data indicate a decline in someone's health.

The telehealth technology is meant to reduce unnecessary physician visits, a major issue when the patient lives far from the nearest doctor and lacks reliable transportation options. Early intervention also can prevent hospital readmissions, a growing concern since Medicare will stop reimbursing for certain preventable readmissions beginning in October 2012, based on data that hospitals already are reporting.

The hospital will be working with primary care physicians to identify the rest of the 50 patients. Sorenson said that the hospital will be able to export the data it receives from Care Beyond Walls and Wires participants to doctors that have electronic health records.

Qualcomm, through its Wireless Reach program that supports connectivity projects in underserved communities, initiated the project and is providing technical expertise and much of the funding for the yearlong trial. "Qualcomm came to us," Sorensen said.

The NIH, through its Public-Private Partnership Program and its National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is helping Flagstaff Medical Center devise a way to keep the monitoring effort going once the grant money runs out, and likely will assist the hospital in publishing results of the trial. "We are already working on the sustainability model," Sorenson said.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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Lisa Henderson
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Lisa Henderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2011 | 7:04:09 PM
re: Verizon, Qualcomm, NIH Partner On Telemedicine
Good to know that the Droid / Verizon connection will work in a remote area of a Native American reservation. I live in a metropolitan area and the AT&T/iPhone connection, while good, does have its moments of non-service.

Lisa Henderson, InformationWeek Healthcare, contributing editor
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