Louis Burns, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations, doesn't much mind that telehealth technology vendor Robert Bosch Healthcare, a major competitor, has been getting a lot of press lately. In an industry with plenty of room to grow, a rising tide will raise all boats.
"I've always pushed this issue of 'coopetition,'" Burns told MobiHealthNews at this week's Health 2.0 Fall Conference in San Francisco. In fact, Burns was more than happy to cite a 2009 study at the Department of Veterans Affairs that found clear reductions in hospitalizations among patients monitored with the Health Buddy system that Bosch now owns. That showed that the concept of home-based remote patient monitoring works, even if it wasn't Intel Health Guide.
Care Innovations, which launched in January, represents the combination of the Digital Health Group of Intel and the Home Health Division of GE Healthcare. Burns headed the Intel group.
Still, this is a very immature industry segment. Burns said that he would like for the various players in wireless patient monitoring to come together to standardize technology for the purpose of interoperability. If he were the head of some major healthcare purchaser like the VA or Britain's National Health Service, he would demand greater adoption of standards, Burns added.
"The need is clear and the time is right," Burns said. How right? This Saturday, the first day of federal fiscal year 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will start measuring 30-day readmission rates for patients with heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia. Hospitals will face Medicare fee reductions in fiscal 2013 based on preventable readmissions during 2012.
"It's not real sophisticated," Burns said of technology to help reduce readmissions. It's all about finding problems before patient need acute and emergency care, which is exactly what home and mobile monitoring devices do.
"The economics are starting to pull themselves around," according to Burns, even if few payers are reimbursing directly for remote monitoring. As healthcare systems create Accountable Care Organizations and the imperative shifts to reducing costs, they are starting to see the value of investing in virtual home care and virtual care coordination.
With the growing focus on care coordination and bundled payments, Burns said he is seeing assisted-living facilities opening up dialog with hospitals, something they have not done historically, and much of the conversation revolves around wireless monitoring and communication of health data.
From a corporate perspective, Burns reported that Care Innovations is "blending the two cultures nicely" while ramping up its operations. The Intel-GE venture has established a new headquarters office in Roseville, Calif., near Sacramento, and is getting ready to move its Beaverton, Ore., branch into larger digs next week. A new office in New York—home base of the GE Quiet Care motion-sensing system that GE acquired in 2009—will open in November.
The company continues to upgrade its products as well. Care Innovations Connect, a tablet-based communications hub and social networking tool for seniors, and Care Innovations Guide, a similar system for home management of chronic ailments that formerly was called Intel Health Guide, now run on off-the-shelf technology, Burns said.
Connect, in particular, is intended to address the loneliness that older adults can face, and to provide what Burns dubbed "virtual assisted living." As the Care Innovations CEO put it, "Even the most basic stuff can make the biggest difference."