Microsoft and cellular phone and data services provider TracFone are betting that smartphones can help improve health care.
The companies announced on Aug. 21 that they are collaborating on a mobile health pilot program with the help of Health Choice Network, a Miami-based health care IT and business services company. Participants will be provided Windows Phones with specialized apps, including Microsoft's HealthVault medical information and records platform, to help them manage their diabetes.
The solution will also include Microsoft Office 365, Dynamics CRM and other health care-related smartphone apps. Connectivity will be provided by TracFone's prepaid services.
"For several years, our patients with chronic health conditions like diabetes have benefited from access to their personal health record in HealthVault," said Kevin Kearns, president and CEO of Health Choice Network. "We are excited to include a mobile smartphone to extend the platform for patient engagement and enhance our ability to provide, connect and utilize the tools to drive better outcomes."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29.1 million people in the United States, 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. The program targets "underserved and high-risk populations," according to the companies.
As part of the initiative, Health Choice Network is developing an app that delivers treatment reminders and aids in the monitoring and tracking of blood sugar levels. "The pilot's goal is to demonstrate how access to mobile technology can help improve patient compliance, education and ultimately disease-related outcomes," said the companies in a statement.
Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant for Windows 8.1, is also lending a hand. Or rather, her voice.
Similar to Apple's Siri and Google Now, Cortana enables users to make calls, set appointments, get directions and complete other tasks using natural-language voice commands. "For example, Cortana can remind patients to fill a prescription the next time it senses that they are near the pharmacy, or it can remind them to talk to a doctor about a specific concern the next time a doctor's call or email is received," stated Microsoft.
Security and confidentiality are big priorities, assured Microsoft. The solution combines "enterprise-grade security and privacy features to allow security-enhanced, HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]-enabled email and messaging communications to patients regarding their health and regimens." Microsoft Office 365, the software giant's cloud-enabled productivity suite, already provides a foundation for secure, HIPAA-enabled email and messaging, reminded the company.
The project gets the thumbs-up from the director of health information exchange policy and interoperability with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Lee Stevens. "Putting existing technologies to use for today's patients will help improve healthcare, coordination and outcomes, as well as better manage costs," he stated.
Those benefits aside, the effort could pave the way for an ecosystem of mobile health solutions. "Combining the power of a smartphone with a personal health record platform that brings disparate data together in a secure environment is an important step toward the goal of providing better patient engagement and more mobile healthcare in the U.S.," said Stevens.