Scripps to Study How Mobile Devices Affect Health Care Costs

Scripps Health is working with Qualcomm Life and Accenture to see if using medical sensors reduces the cost of treating expensive chronic conditions.

Scripps Health, a nonprofit health system in San Diego, has launched a research project called Wired 4 Health through its Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) to see how mobile medical devices impact health care costs.

"Through this study, we will be able to demonstrate where these technologies are providing the most economic value to the health care system and where there is room for improvement," Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health, said in a statement.

STSI is enrolling 200 participants among Scripps' 13,500 workers and family members as well as people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart arrhythmias.

Half of 200 participants will use a mobile monitoring device to track their conditions for six months. Products such as the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, AliveCore Heart Monitor and IBGStar Blood Glucose Meter will connect to Qualcomm Life's cloud-based 2net Hub and Platform, which will collect data from the sensors.

Qualcomm Life is the mobile health division of Qualcomm.

The HealthyCircles Care Orchestration engine, a care-coordination platform Qualcomm Life recently acquired, will allow patients to interact with doctors in health sessions and use Web portals and mobile devices to track their conditions. HealthyCircles will enable doctors to monitor patients' conditions during the trials.

Control members will receiving training from nurses on managing their condition but will not use the mobile sensors.

On Wired 4 Health, Scripps is also collaborating with third-party health care administrator Healthcomp and consulting firm Accenture.

Announced on Aug. 6, the STSI study will examine the cost of screenings and emergency visits, as well as their frequency and purpose, Scripps reported.

"The data will enable us to assess whether patients who actively track their health conditions through mobile devices and interact with their health care team through a Web portal will have more success managing their health conditions and, as a result, spend fewer health care dollars," Dr. Cinnamon Bloss, director of social sciences and bioethics at STSI, said in a statement.

Engaging customers through the use of mobile devices and social networking should be able to reduce health care costs, but studies have yet to prove the correlation exists, according to Rick Valencia, vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Life.

"We're really looking to see what is the impact on the system, if in doing this patients are more engaged and not taxing the existing system as much and that results in time and dollar savings," Valencia told eWEEK."That's the expected and hoped-for outcome."

By patients more actively managing their conditions, they'll require fewer trips to the doctor's office and emergency room, he explained.

In addition, remote monitoring at home can speed up results of the study, Valencia noted.

"The beauty of digital health solutions is that you can deploy and generate results fairly quickly because the nature of remote monitoring is that you you don't have to have a whole bunch of people ... bringing data to clinics, which then has to be entered in the systems and analyzed," Valencia said. "Instead you can recruit folks that never even have to show up in the clinic theoretically, and they get their devices at home and begin sending instantaneously."

The latest study is part of an ongoing collaboration between Qualcomm and Scripps Health.

In October 2012, Scripps Health announced that Qualcomm Foundation, the company's philanthropic subsidiary, had awarded the health system a $3.75 million grant to fund research at STSI on digital technologies that aid the practice of medicine.

"The support from the Qualcomm Foundation of our efforts at Scripps positions us to catalyze the future of digital medicine—a new form of health care that is remarkably precise, tailored to individual patients and designed to engage them in their own care," Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer for Scripps and director of STSI, said in a statement.

Research will also focus on the development of apps and embedded sensors to help track and predict heart attacks, type 1 diabetes and various types of cancer.

Along with DNA Electronics, a developer of semiconductors for DNA analysis platforms, and Dr. Chris Toumazou at the Imperial College London, Scripps is also looking into handheld genotyping, in which a health care provider can determine a patient's DNA compatibility with certain drugs within 20 minutes.