Chronic disease tools focus of Ochsner wearables, app tech challenge

A new technology challenge to create wearables and apps aims to help improve chronic disease care.

GE Healthcare, New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System and The Idea Village are kicking off the "Wear Your Health" competition, which runs through Sept. 15. The first phase will feature 10 winners, who will share a prize pool of $10,000. Those winners then will be eligible for phase two, in which three finalists receive additional development funding from a discretionary prize pool of $15,000. The top winner will be announced at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week next March.

The focus on chronic disease is due to the fact such ailments account for seven of every 10 U.S. deaths, and 80 percent of total healthcare costs, Richard Milani, M.D., Ochsner chief clinical transformation officer, told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview.

"One way to make an impactful change in chronic disease patients is to modify behavior with new technologies," he said. "Wearables in healthcare represent a drastic shift from the current, ineffective methods of care for chronic disease to new, patient-centered mechanisms that can provide sustainable, real-time and effective chronic disease management."

Milani (pictured) added that patient-centered technologies will contribute to a future with "highly personalized patient experiences and treatment plans," and may reduce the total cost of care by improving quality and enhancing speed and access. The ultimate goal, he said, is to empower patients through digital health platforms so they can take responsibility for their care and become more accountable for their health decisions.

Chronic disease is one of the main targets of mobile health tech developers. New health tools are being developed by many technology companies, including Apple and Samsung. In addition, smartphones are being tapped for glucose monitoring and testing, and apps promise to help patients take a more proactive and engaged strategy in treatment and disease management.

The organizations supporting the tech challenge hope to attract interest from many different areas, according to Milani, who encouraged physicians in primary care and other medical specialties to participate. 

"The objective would be to incur positive results and change behavior which could lower healthcare costs and keep people healthy," he said.

Programmers and inventors also are urged to take part, Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village, told FierceMobileHealthcare.

"The idea is that this challenge is providing a platform that is attractive for everyone--from techies to programmers to physicians to inventors--because having access to the networks that Ochsner Health System and GE Healthcare bring to the table as you develop and test your prototype is invaluable," Williamson said.

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