The technology may be new, but the reimbursement conundrum isn't

There seems to be a theme in this week's FierceMobileHealthcare: Mobile and wireless technologies are exciting and full of potential, but one little barrier seems to be holding it back. I'll give you a hint: It's the same problem that has hindered other areas of health IT for years. Money.

There aren't many payers reimbursing for mobile and wireless monitoring devices. Nor do physicians often get paid for, say, holding a video chat with a patient. While there are plenty of reasons to believe that viewing a medical image or even a photo of a wound on a smartphone can speed physician decision-making and potentially save lives, scientific evidence is lacking.

One story this week is about a vendor of wireless monitoring devices that purports to have "universal" connectivity over cellular networks. There is great potential there, but one analyst offers a reality check by bringing up the reimbursement issue.

Our report about a $20 million grant to the West Wireless Health Institute emphasizes that the new funding will primarily support biomedical engineering activities. That frees up some of the original $45 million in funding for the institute to conduct much-needed research into the efficacy of wireless healthcare technologies. The goal there, as we've previously reported, is to produce scientific literature on how wireless health can improve outcomes and hopefully push some changes in reimbursement policies.

I'd also like to call your attention to a Wireless Week story about mobile healthcare. While there's little there that FierceMobileHealthcare readers don't already know, I find it interesting that the first person quoted in the article urges "patience." Why? You guessed it: reimbursement.

"One day, maybe people will have their own personal wireless area networks to call their own. It will just be a matter of who pays for it," the story concludes.

When it comes to health IT, isn't it always a matter of who pays for it? - Neil