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Groundhog Day – health tech is destined for re-discovery

If institutional discovery equaled adoption, health technologies would be pervasive.  Can you believe it? The New England Health Institute researched chronic disease technologies to watch – and resolved to watch the technologies already under observation, if not broad deployment, for many years. One of the amazing aspects of following an industry over time is to watch the perpetual re-discovery of its newness. The report depicts an industry that is a never-ending sandbox of futures:  between research groups deciding to invent their own technologies rather than purchase commercial product and research institutes discovering tech categories like in-home telehealth that been around for years – now, according to NEHI, they may emerge (if policies are changed.) Yes, and if the constituents that might use them agree -- which makes a market.

In some amazing coincidence, device displays change, but the content persists.  Does anyone remember the 2009 Healthcare Without the Doctor, funded by the California Healthcare Foundation?  Apparently, even the sponsor doesn’t remember that they sponsored almost the same report more than three years ago. And that some emerging tech had already emerged a while ago -- note the VA study about the efficacy of telehealth dated 2008. So good, the tech has a new portable hardware platform. But this is not as exciting as it may appear. All those sites that now have mobile ‘apps’ on the smart phone are really just miniature and tuned-up views of long-time Internet websites -- it's no surprise that WebMD is one of the most popular phone health apps.  As web standards evolve, phone-specific apps will likely not be required. Let's be thankful that an app on one device will work on another (see Amazon.com). Consider social media promoting health. Peer pressure may work to get you to exercise, watch and continuously share your weight – but this is not new, and has been discussed at all too many health tech events. But restaurants, portion sizes/price ratios and physical inertia look like they are currently winning the war over social media pressure.   

What’s new: your mobile this and that – though not for seniors with chronic disease.  Although no one appears to be making money in telehealth yet, you too can fall into a manhole cover as you take your very smart blood pressure and upload it to your sharp-as-a-tack (and fast!) phone – or perhaps you will sit in your hotel room reviewing health records on your more readable tablet, check your medication management software on your phone and remember that you should take your pills now. Okay, your in-car health app may not permit you to put the car into drive and take your blood pressure from the highway. We can only hope.

Extended care facilities -- will they be supportive of remote visitations? No one would argue that the infrequency of visitation by doctors on ALF and SNF campuses is a concern. And that remote consultations (like Consult-A-Doctor) are beginning to gain traction with insurance companies.  But have the associations of executives of these long-term care organizations been vocal advocates of extended care eVisits?  Has it been a topic at associations like LeadingAge or ALFA? See for yourself – and ask yourself why doctors would be supportive of a type of visit that is not yet reimbursed at the same rate as face-to-face. More to the point, for industries like senior housing that are tech laggards in the use of tech as selected by NEHI, studies that discover and conclude that a trend is underway will – like the excellent report from the California Healthcare Foundation – become flashes in the pan of prediction.  

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