Verizon Wireless will develop a new suite of digital health care products focused on treating and preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes and chronic heart failure, the company announced at the 2011 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. It also unveiled projects with the insurer WellPoint and telehealth provider Zipnosis to focus on virtual care.
The new digital care management platform will work off of Verizon's cloud-based health network and incorporate biometric medical data from companies such as Entra Health Systems.
Biometric remote monitoring is a growing industry with players such as AT&T, MedApps, and Sprint active in this area. On Dec. 5, Qualcomm launched a new subsidiary that will connect mobile devices to remotely monitor patient vital signs.
Verizon's mobile health platform will incorporate technology from companies such as medical software provider IQMax and Calgary Scientific. AT&T and Sprint also incorporate Calgary Scientific's medical applications with its mobile products.
The pilot project links medical monitoring devices such as glucose meters to Verizon's 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network on a 4.3-inch HTC ThunderBolt Android smartphone, Tighe said.
For chronic heart failure, blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters connect to Verizon smartphones to send readings to doctors. Doctors or health plans can receive alerts if patients have difficulty regulating their blood pressure or blood sugar, and readings from remote-monitoring devices fall outside a normal range.
In the virtual care collaboration with health insurer WellPoint, Verizon plans a telehealth product that will connect doctors and patients on smartphones, tablets and laptops using the company's 4G LTE technology. Patients in rural or remote areas often have difficulty getting to an actual doctor's office.
WellPoint will provide secure video conferencing between patients and the company's nurse care managers, according to Michael Tighe, executive director of m-health solutions for Verizon Wireless.
Telehealth will provide a less costly option for patients rather than visiting urgent-care centers or emergency rooms, Tighe told eWEEK. Urgent care or the emergency room is often the only physical option available due to distance, Tighe added.
The virtual-care platform will allow patients to connect with their primary-care physicians when distance and time prevent in-person exams, Tighe said. If a patient develops a skin rash on the weekend, they could use the less expensive virtual-care service through video, rather than visiting the ER, he suggested.
"By leveraging video, we hope to enhance engagement in health care management, improve the quality of services provided and help consumers stay on track with their programs," Tighe said. Verizon plans to bring the new digital health and virtual care products to market in 2012, according to Tighe.
At the mHealth Summit from Dec. 5-7, Verizon also demonstrated online consultations from telehealth provider Zipnosis, an online Web portal that allows patients to virtually meet with clinicians to be treated for sinus infections, bladder infections, allergies and other minor health ailments. Zipnosis consultations cost $25 and integrate Verizon's network infrastructure.
"Zipnosis' digital platform is an innovative way for patients and providers to connect for acute medical needs using wireless devices like smartphones and tablets to access the portal," Arthur Lane, associate director of health care strategy and new market development for Verizon Wireless, said in a statement.