Continua pushes 'personal connected health' as payers mull reimbursement

You may have noticed an unusually high number of stories in today's FierceMobileHealthcare about surveys, studies and prognostications for the mobile health market. Much of the data we reference are related on unregulated, consumer-centric home monitors and smartphone apps.

That, no doubt, would make Continua Health Alliance Executive Director Chuck Parker smile. "We've intentionally stayed away from going into the clinical space," Parker told me last week at the first Mobile Health Expo in Las Vegas. Continua, founded in June 2006, is dedicated to standardizing and encouraging greater adoption of products for what Parker calls "personal connected health."

And alliance members are trying to get more creative. "Typically in the past, we've talked about [developing new] devices," Parker said. Now, Continua is looking to repurpose existing technologies to help solve specific healthcare problems, such as by combining multiple monitoring devices on a single Internet, cellular or wireless ZigBee connection. "We're talking about minor fees to add new services to existing architecture," Parker noted.

Which gets to the heart of a major issue Continua members are dealing with--and at least one recent market report addresses--namely developing sustainable business models. Part of that involves convincing certain segments of the population that personal monitoring devices can keep them healthy, while other work is centered around proving to third-party payers that such technology can save money.

Studies like the ones we mention in today's issue are important steps toward changing reimbursement policies, but some in positions of leadership are already sold. Parker noted that CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick spoke at the recent American Telemedicine Association about how Medicare is interested in deploying more personal and home monitoring devices as a way of reducing costs and improving the quality of life for seniors with chronic diseases. (An oft-overlooked portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act establishes the Center for Medicare Innovation within CMS and gives the Medicare agency the authority to scale up successful pilot projects without additional congressional approval.)

Fortunately for us--and hopefully for you as well--we've just added CMS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Barry Straube to "Telemedicine Success: Opportunities for Seamless Care, Reduced Costs and Broader Access," our executive breakfast on Tuesday, Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. If you're coming to the nation's capital for the mHealth Summit that week, make sure you get to our event as well. Our top-flight panel also includes: Dr. Adam Darkins, telemedicine chief for the Department of Veterans Affairs; Phoebe Yang of the Federal Communications Commission; Dr. Karen Rheuban, director of the University of Virginia Medical System's Office of Telemedicine; and Lynne Dunbrack, program director for IDC Health Insights' Connected Health IT Strategies program.

You can be sure those speakers will have plenty to say about reimbursement for home monitoring. - Neil