Congressman proposes bill to advance mHealth

A new bill was intorduced by Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) that would tap wireless technology to prevent complications and deaths due to chronic diseases.

According to Peters, the Health Savings Through Technology Act, H.R. 3577, advocates  “a smarter way to deliver health care in the United States.”

“Currently, the federal government does a poor job of taking into account the cost-effectiveness of technological innovation over the long term when making budget projections,” Peters said in a Nov. 21 news release. “This short-sighted process is a disincentive to innovation and harms the potential for technology to reduce the cost of providing health care.”

50% of Americans have at least one chronic illness, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control Report and 7 out of 10 deaths each year are a result of a chronic disease like heart disease or cancer.

Peters believes that new innovations like the wireless technologies encouraged by this legislation could help more efficiently prevent and treat these chronic diseases.

“The vast majority of Americans now use some sort of mobile device today; people can now monitor glucose levels, track calories, or be alerted to harmful drug interactions over their phone or tablet,” Peters said. “San Diego is ahead of the curve in wireless health care discovery so providing incentives for it supports economic growth in my district, and helps bend the cost curve across the country.”

Wireless devices are a household item with more than 300 million mobile subscriptions in the United States alone.

Wireless devices are a great outlet for doctors to provide quality care at lower costs, Peters said.

The “Health Savings Through Technology Act” would give both patients and providers the ability to monitor patient health and guide self-care via their wireless devices, beyond the clinical setting.

This improves patient outcomes and efficiency in the system, cuts down on unnecessary trips to the doctor or emergency room, and reduces health care costs over time.

The ‘Health Savings Through Technology Act’ would create a commission to inventory existing data, examine the cost-savings that can be achieved by increasing the use of wireless health technologies, and develop a comprehensive strategy for integrating these technologies into federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, which often serve the mobility-impaired and elderly.

The bill is endorsed by several private and non-profit groups, including BIOCOM, BayBio, Qualcomm, CONNECT, the American Telemedicine Association and the California Healthcare Institute.

“Health information technologies – particularly wireless and mobile technologies – hold the promise to revolutionize health care. Improved assessments of the actual value of innovative technologies are crucial to encouraging the development of new technologies,” Todd Gillenwater, California Health Institute’s senior vice president, said in a letter of support for the legislation.

Several companies in larger cities like San Diego are already working on integrating wireless technology into their healthcare system.

This bill would help expand and grow the industry by providing funding for new jobs so that it can expand even further.

A letter of support from the American Telemedicine Association read in part: “ATA supports … legislation to establish a Commission. [This bill] will also explore how mobile technologies can fundamentally change health care delivery for the longstanding approach of the patient having to go to the care to a truly patient-centered approach of having the care go to the patient — anywhere anytime.”

Congressman Peters also introduced the bipartisan H.R. 3507, the 21st Century Care for Military & Veterans Act, with Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), making this the second legislation he introduced of this nature.

The 21st Century Care for Military & Veterans Act would expand reimbursement policies covering the use of telehealth services, including mental health monitoring, under TRICARE and the VA Medical System.

According to Peters, evidence of how wireless health solutions can reduce costs associated with service delivery includes:

  • Remote monitoring programs reduced hospital admission rates for chronic heart failure by 21%, annual savings exceeding $10 billion annually.
  • Video visits led to a 20% reduction in expensive Emergency Room admissions and a 14% reduction in bed days, cutting hospital management expenses by 44%.
  • Wireless reminder instrument led to a 27% higher rate of patients who took blood pressure medication on time.
  • Using behavioral mobile coaching and individually analyzed health data substantially reduced glycated hemoglobin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, generating system cost savings.

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