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All Things HIT

May 2 2011   11:41PM GMT

Telehealth and mhealth calling attention to ACOs



Posted by: AllinHIT
ACO's, ATA 2011, mHealth, Telehealth

This week I am attending the American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) annual conference and expo in Tampa, Fl.  I’ve attended executive roundtable discussions, sat in on sessions detailing successful telehealth pilots, interviewed key stakeholders and saw a few impressive demos of innovative telehealth technologies.

Unfortunately, I ended the day with most of the same questions I had prior to attending.  But when considering whether or not telehealth is a must-have component for ACOs, the I did get an answer, and it is a resounding “YES.”

As a healthcare IT consultant, I wanted to attend ATA 2011 to acquaint myself with the latest telehealth and mHealth products, pilots and ongoing initiatives, and most importantly speak to the industry leaders and innovators who are leading this charge.  The conference gave me a taste of all of these things, and I am convinced that telehealth — which includes mobile health and patient remote monitoring — is a truly effective measure for improving chronic care management.  There are multiple pilots that have put this point beyond debate, which was highlighted again during the executive roundtable discussions, the participants of which represented some of the largest, most influential thought leaders and vendors in the industry.

If accountable care organizations (ACOs) are to become an effective means of chronic disease patient management, we must begin utilizing telehealth technologies and harnessing the power of mHealth now. Though we — the industry — must keep in mind that what makes sense logically, might not make sense financially, and what I was not able to get a straight answer on was regarding the cost of these technologies. Even when I asked pointed questions on price and availability, I heard responses such as: “it depends on how many units are purchased” and “I’m on the product side, but sales will tailor a quote for customers.”

Telehealth is a device dependent model and will require scale in lowering the per unit price, not to mention device and network maintenance, inventory shrinkage and the myriad of support and training costs.  Until these costs are defined in granular, I wonder if ACOs will truly be able to answer the industry’s call?

Stay tuned — I still have another day at the conference, where I aim to get more answers, and quite possibly more questions!

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