Health reform's fleeting mHealth mention?

By Brian Dolan

President Obama Health ReformOn page 526 of the more than 2,300 page healthcare reform bill that President Barack Obama signed earlier this week is a proposal for states to support the use of wireless health technology for chronic disease management: "A proposal for use of health information technology in providing health home services under this section and improving service delivery and coordination across the care continuum (including the use of wireless patient technology to improve coordination and management of care and patient adherence to recommendations made by their provider)," the law reads.

Unfortunately for wireless health boosters this language is stripped out of the "reconciliation bill," which the Senate looks likely to pass very soon. This slightly shorter reconciliation bill will then replace the original and the one and only specific mention of wireless health will become an ephemeral part of this (no matter your views) historic legislation.

The proposal for using wireless health was for patients who eligible for medical assistance under the state plan and have two or more chronic conditions. They could also have one chronic condition but likely to develop a second one soon. Eligible patients would otherwise need a "serious and persistent" mental health condition to qualify under this proposal, the bill reads.

How did this section define a "chronic condition?" While it gave the Secretary the leeway to define it as she sees fit, the bill specifically pointed to mental health illness, substance abuse disorder, asthma, diabetes, heart disease or being overweight as qualifying conditions. Being overweight was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher.

What were the types of services the bill proposed that might make use of wireless health technologies? "Comprehensive care management; care coordination and health motion; comprehensive transitional care, including appropriate follow-up, from inpatient to other settings; patient and family support including authorized representatives); referral to community and social support services, if relevant; and use of health information technology to link services, as feasible and appropriate."

For the full text of the bills, read on here for the signed healthcare reform bill and here for the reconciliation version