Can mPERS bridge the gap between docs and home-based telehealth?

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Healthcare providers have long found value in using mHealth to monitor patients at home up to 90 days after a hospital visit. But what happens after the reimbursements are gone and the hospital takes back its technology?

A new partnership seeks to keep that mHealth link going, and it's using the mobile personal emergency response services (mPERS) market as an entry point.

Honeywell Life Care Solutions is joining forces with medical alert technology vendor MobileHelp to offer a consumer-facing platform that would allow patients to monitor their vital signs and share them with providers, the companies announced last week at CES 2015 in Las Vegas. 

Honeywell Life Care Solutions – which separately announced a rebranding from Honeywell HomMed at CES – sees the mPERS field as an ideal entry point for providers who want to maintain a connection to patients beyond the reimbursable 30- to 90-day time period. Likewise, officials said many patients are reluctant to give up their home monitoring devices when the hospital asks for it back.

"Patients are literally crying when those devices are removed from their homes," John Bojanowski, Honeywell Life Care Solutions' president, told mHealth News. "They feel empowered by (these devices)."

The partnership hits upon an important strategy: For mHealth to succeed in the consumer market, it needs to attach itself to something that's already in place and a part of the consumer's lifestyle. Honeywell executives note that they're entering the home through mPERS solutions that are already established, and giving added value to the systems in place.

Just as important, they're marketing a business plan that moves beyond the provider-centric solution – one that focuses on, and gets reimbursed for, patient outcomes for a limited amount of time after the healthcare visit. This plan shifts the cost to the consumer, and may prove to be a key test in the willingness of the consumer market to pay for health monitoring services. 

"It's a completely different market for us," Bojanowski said. "This is an area that we're not engaged with at all … but it's where (mHealth) is heading. It's that next step."

Through the partnership, Honeywell will be marketing the new MobileVitals telehealth solution through its healthcare providers. The MobileVitals platform is described as a "telehealth-lite" solution that enables consumers to monitor their vital signs through MobileHelp's mPERS technology and send that data on to providers.

Rob Flippo, MobileHelp's CEO, said the collection of vital signs is a natural extension of the company's original business model, which centered on a wireless "bay station" that collected data from PERS pendants. "We're moving from reactive to proactive," he said, from alerting people when a customer falls to, among other things, analyzing data that might keep someone from falling.

The system includes a Bluetooth-enabled cellular base station, the MobileHelp Connect online portal, an mPERS application for smartphones that allows consumers to access emergency help and also synch to MobileHelp, and MobileVitals peripherals – biometric Bluetooth devices that currently consist of a weight scale, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and glucometer and synch with both the cellular base station and the app.

Flippo said MobileHelp's new platform is deliberately designed to be less complicated than typical home-based telehealth solutions because it's seen as a first step for those coming off of the systems provided by the hospital for post-discharge monitoring. "Let's keep it simple," he said,  "Let's give them the data we're already getting in the background by default, and show them how to use it."

It's not en entirely new market, either. Companies like Numera, Caremerge, Independa and VideoCare have been marketing consumer-facing home telehealth models for the senior and independent living markets for the past couple of years. Providers have been slow to join the party, waiting – as they are with the consumer-facing wearables market – for platforms that will sift through all that data and give them only what they need.

Bojanowski is hoping the MobileHelp partnership will tip the scales. He said this type of partnership is a natural evolution of the mHealth market from one coordinated by providers to one shared between the consumer and the provider, where the consumer is in charge of data collection at home. "Providers are helping us define the market," he said, "by determining what data they'd want."

He also noted that while consumer-facing market technologies are popular at the moment – as evidenced by the 35 percent increase in mHealth vendor activity at CES 2015 – it won't be sustainable without provider support.

"This is not a data dump to the physician's office," he added. "There's so much technology being thrown out there – what we're trying to do is be consistent."