In our recent video report, Mobile Health Challenges in 2012, Dr. Eric Topol, the Vice Chairman of the West Wireless Health Institute, had this insight:
"Right now healthcare is incredibly expensive, but a lot of these new innovative technologies are frugal innovations. For the first time they not only fulfill unmet needs, but at lower costs," Topol said. "We've never seen that before."
In addition to fulfilling unmet needs and improving health outcomes, lowering the costs associated with healthcare has long been a goal for many working in mobile health. Given Topol's quote above, it's not surprising that lowering the costs of healthcare is part of the core mission of the West Wireless Health Institute.
This week Gary and Mary West, the billionaire philanthropists who founded the WWHI, created a new institute called the West Health Policy Center, based in Washington D.C. The new center will conduct research on better reimbursement models, improved price transparency, and smarter technologies like those championed by its sister institute, the West Wireless Health Institute.
“You can’t move people out of the expensive places of care if you don’t set up a system that allows data and biometrics to be gathered conveniently and pushed through algorithms to a health provider so that he or she knows when someone is moving to a danger zone,” Don Casey, the CEO of the WWHI and chairman of the new West Health Policy Center told the Washington Post this week in an interview.
Casey said that the center will focus on "churning out" research that convinces policymakers to include mobile health technologies into bundled payments for insurers: Better outcomes at a lower cost, he said.
Across the pond, Medtronic's CEO Omar Ishrak reportedly plans to use this week's World Economic Forum in Davos to brainstorm how to bring cost-effective implantable devices to patients in emerging markets, like Asia, Latin America, and Africa. One headline for an article describing Ishrak's plans read: "After $35 tablet computer, pacemakers may be next."
And here in Boston Children's Hospital announced an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to become the first pediatric-only hospital to sign the Alternative Quality Contract (AQC), which includes a zero percent rate increase for 2012. The payment model is designed "to slow the growth in health care spending and improve patient care by helping physicians and hospitals redesign their care to emphasize quality and value over volume," according to the announcement.
The frugal innovations in development at mobile health startups across the globe could help the hospital, and others making similar moves, to meet their goal.