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Developing payment models to motivate doctors to embrace mobile health technologies

Is the United States' medical reimbursement system deterring doctors from embracing new technologies that could improve patient care? According to some health-care innovators the answer is, unfortunately, yes.

A story posted today posted today on Technology Review highlights recent research on the benefits of remote monitoring programs on patient outcomes and explores why the current fee-for-service structure is preventing physicians from incorporating such technologies into their practice:

A number of pilot studies suggest that remote monitoring can improve patient health and reduce costs. A study published in the Lancet earlier this year found that heart-failure patients with a wireless implant designed to measure pressure had fewer hospital visits. In a second Lancet study, published by researchers in the United Kingdom, patients with hypertension who measured blood pressure at home, in combination with remote monitoring from physicians, were better able to control their hypertension. That's likely to reduce a patient's long-term health costs.

With the current system, "there are no incentives for preventive care; no one gets paid for keeping you from needing these services," says [Jim Hansen, executive director of the Dossia Consortium, a nonprofit organization that develops personal health records for employers]. "That's especially true for behavior-related issues, such as obesity, diabetes, congestive heart failure."

Hansen and others hope that the Affordable Care Act will help to alleviate this problem. Part of the legislation funded the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which is testing new payment models. One option is that providers are paid a monthly amount to take care of patients and are able to share in the financial savings that may result.

The article goes on to say that, for the time being, most companies are marketing mobile medical technologies to consumers or insurance providers but that adoption by doctors is key in order for such products to have a significant influence on patients' health.

Previously: Should physicians be compensated for time spent e-mailing patients? and The democratic, digital future of healthcare

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