BY: ROZ BEN-CHITRIT
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014
It’s only been a month since the mHealth Summit in Washington DC, and the Digital Health Summit (part of the world famous Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) is upon us.
As you keep track of the big news coming out of the Digital Health Summit, it will be useful to compare it to some of the important takeaways emerging from the mHealth Summit.
To that end, our regular contributor, Roz Ben-Chitrit of Sanford Rose Associates shares a few of the themes and insights she got out of the mHealth Summit.
Her commentary will help you to not only compare and contrast with the “hot” ideas coming out of the Digital Health Summit, but also to look at how any one solution can carve out a niche for itself in this increasingly crowded marketplace.
The December 2013 mHealth Summit was full of inspiring speakers, innovative products in the exhibit hall, and a lot of passionate industry leaders.
The weather for the key arrival times in Washington, DC was horrible, so many people didn’t make it … from keynoters to people who are the “greenest” in the industry. And that was a shame.
But those of us lucky enough to have arrived at the Summit were treated to a well-done conference. Hearing Steve Case (founder of America OnLine and Revolution Health) talk about the process of hype to hope to happiness in moving the industry ahead sticks in my mind.
Even before the conference, I believed we were getting to that tipping point between hope and happiness, and I still think that in some areas we really are.
Much of that happiness is driven by legislative advances, economic incentives and technological breakthroughs.
But there are areas where getting to happiness is still a ways off.
And of course, that’s where people are finding opportunity to add unique value through mHealth.
What’s hot in mHealth?
Listening to the speakers and walking around the exhibit hall floor, there was a clear distinction between a few areas.
On the one hand, there are the “engagement” products and discussions that are critically important. Consumers and providers need to be involved with products if they’re going to have any efficacy.
On the other hand, some of the most interesting solutions focus on specific problems for small and specific populations.
For example … Adolescents with depression?
There’s an app for that (it’s a game).
It doesn’t require an office visit, engages teens “where they are” and has been shown to improve their disease.
Hmmmm… A product that improves health, saves time and money, improves access AND is engaging.
Sounds like a winner.
My Professional Passion
For years, I’ve been obsessed by the impact of medication non-compliance on our health system.
As a former product marketer, I worked to develop a medication compliance solution.
And as an adjunct professor, I even encouraged my students to contemplate and solve the problem.
I’m convinced that we can improve health and save cost if people take their medicines as directed.
Throughout the conference, I was excited to see and hear about offerings in the medication reminder segment.
I saw devices.
I saw mobile phone apps.
I heard speakers talking about patient engagement and medication management.
Clearly these people shared my passion and recognize that this is a problem that needs solving.
But they also have to find a way to distinguish themselves from everyone else who is also targeting the medication non-compliance problem.
Let’s dive into one of these companies to see how it differentiates itself.
iRx Reminder – Helping the most complex medical patients
iRxReminder does not address the “mass” market for medication reminders…
At first glance, their product – iLidRx – appears to be a fairly large and formidable medication compliance solution.
After a conversation with Anthony Sterns, CEO, and Larry Tusick, VP of Business Development, however, the solution seemed compelling for the niche market it’s meant to serve.
Here’s how it works:
- An at-risk patient’s care team creates a medication regimen for the patient
- Pharmacy fills the prescriptions by placing Rx’s in the “pods” in the iLidRx, an automated tabletop medicine cabinet, akin to a jewelry box (the pods are cartridges filled with one medication each that dispense the appropriate dose when it’s time to take a medication)
- The patient’s care team enters reminders, educational and symptom management information into the system
- Patient returns home and is reminded about medications in multiple ways:
- Through a reminder on their smart phone
- Through visual reminders on the pods within the box
- On a screen within the box that provides detailed instructions for the patient
- When a pod is removed, medication is dispensed and the pod is returned, technology inside the pod sends a message to the patient’s phone and the phone sends a message to the control center to let them know that the medication was dispensed
- If desired and if there’s the infrastructure, a Health Information Exchange can move data into the provider’s EMR
- If the care team feels that changes should be made to the dosages or prescriptions, they can do that remotely – on the fly
For many patients, this product is overkill.
But here’s why it works. iLidRx is not meant for the “average” patient.
iLidRx is meant to address very sick patients with intense medical challenges. It’s for “high cost-high complexity patients” according to Tusick.
Currently, the company – iRxReminder – is working on projects in support of children who have recently undergone bone marrow transplants.
Sterns, who founded the company, identified the challenges for individuals taking such a complex medication regimen.
He also realized that in our healthcare system, it’s important to understand and support those responsible for paying for the care or those at risk. (Besides the patient, of course.)
And that’s where iLidRx is different.
Sterns and his collaborators recognized that there is a real challenge for medically fragile and complex patients to manage their medications. Of course, it’s of primary importance to help patients get well.
But, payers and ACOs are at risk for the fees associated with these patients and their complications, so it’s in their best interest to keep patients on top of their regimens for financial reasons, too.
They’re going to be interested in what Tusick called the “lowest cost venue, best outcome.”
Transplant patients are typically discharged from the hospital 30-45 days post-op. When they go home, there’s a greater risk that they will be susceptible to graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD).
It’s widely believed that medication compliance reduces the chance of this life-threatening complication.
If there is a way to be confident about patients following their complex instructions post-discharge, there may even be an opportunity to reduce the initial hospital length of stay.
Equally as important, adherence to one’s medication regimen – for transplant patients that can mean 8-15 medications/day – can reduce the ongoing cost of care while improving outcomes and supporting patients and their caregivers.
This is the promise of the iLidRx product.
It’s a great solution for providers (and their patients) who are reimbursed by universal fees and capitation…and it solves a financial problem while doing good for the patient.
I’ll be following them to see what happens.
Other mHealth Summit take-aways…and give-aways
I’ve been a pretty consistent exerciser for many years now, and I sometimes remember to put on my heart rate monitor when I take a spinning class.
But it’s not something I ever got excited about.
Then there’s Esther Dyson, an evangelist in the field…as well as an activist and avid user of self-monitoring in the industry.
It was funny to see how many bands she had on her arm…all measuring some function or activity! I bumped into Esther early one morning at the pool, so it’s clear that she walks the talk.
The industry has a number of companies with products directed at consumers, including a few activity trackers.
Some of the companies had booths on the exhibit hall floor, and I glanced over at the FitBits and Withings monitors among others.
I had the good fortune to win an activity monitor made by Withings from the Aetna Carepass team. (All I had to do was let them scan my badge!)
I had never even heard of Withings, but I thought I’d give it a try.
I synced the cute little device with my Android phone and tried to get a sense of how this might change my mind and further improve my health. After all, I’m “in the industry” …I should have one of these things!
I tried to get it going. Maybe it was some problem with my older version phone that required more attention than I could spare.
Or maybe the fact that the device isn’t waterproof (and I’m mostly a swimmer) gave me pause.
Or a lack of motivation, or something else.
But I gave up. My younger son is now the proud owner of my device.
I guess that goes to one of the core comments about mHealth that you’ll hear from all the experts.
Product designers need to figure out what motivates each person individually and gives them the experience they are seeking.
I’m going to have to keep on looking for what does it for me!
Editor’s note 1:
Roz Ben-Chitrit is managing director of Sanford Rose Associates’ telehealth/mHealth recruitment practice. To learn more about career opportunities or talent searches in telehealth/mHealth, contact Sanford Rose Associates’ recruitment practice at http://www.sanfordrose.com/ct.
Editor’s note 2:
At the Digital Health Summit and other conferences where people talk about engaging patients in their healthcare, be on the lookout for how organizations and companies are trying to tailor their mHealth solution to a specific market segment or personality type rather than to a mass population.
My prediction is that these are the ones who are most likely to succeed in creating sustainable mHealth solutions.
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