Mobile health technology faces reimbursement hurdle

Mobile healthcare apps—which the FDA defines as software that runs on smartphones or other mobile communications devices and optionally software plus accessories that attach to smart devices—offer the potential to improve healthcare and decrease costs. Senior Technical Editor Tom Lecklider will look at such apps in an April feature in our print edition, which you'll be able to access online by the end of March.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Brookings Institution have concluded that policy makers are not doing enough to promote the incorporation of mobile technology into healthcare, as reported by Clara Ritger in National Journal. The researchers studied China and the United States, each of which faces the need to control health costs despite aging populations.

Ritger reports two key roadblocks: physicians don't get reimbursed for using mobile  technology to deliver healthcare, and developers hesitate to innovate because they are unclear on the rules and regulations mobile apps might need to meet.

She quotes Darrell West, founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, as saying, “There's a chicken-and-an-egg problem”—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the U.S., for example, doesn’t want to provide reimbursements until mobile apps' benefits have been demonstrated, but mobile apps won't be widely deployed unless there are reimbursements.

Nevertheless, early research does point to benefits of mobile health technology. Ritger again quotes West as saying, “What people are finding is that patients pay closer attention to their health when they're wearing a device knowing that their vital signs are going directly to their doctor. You get a preventive health benefit, and doctors get real-time data to make proactive decisions about treatment.”

Read Ritger's complete article here.

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