WellPoint, Aetna, Humana test wireless monitoring for congestive heart failure

One of the main barriers to widespread adoption of wireless home patient monitors is that insurers have been reluctant to pay for the technology. Granted, there isn't much scientific literature yet to support reimbursement for such devices, but several major health insurers are working on their own studies in hopes of keeping patients with congestive heart failure out of the hospital.

As the Wall Street Journal reports today, the nation's largest private health insurance company, WellPoint (NYSE: WLP), has launched a pilot via its Anthem subsidiary in California to test a wireless scale and blood-pressure cuff. Aetna (NYSE: AET) is partnering with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) on a clinical trial to see how remote monitoring of patient vitals can reduce hospital admissions, while Humana (NYSE: HUM) is readying a test of wireless vitals monitoring technology that can link CHF patients by video with nurses if an intervention is necessary.

According to the Journal, 25 percent of CHF patients are readmitted within 30 days of being discharged from a hospital. Aetna number-crunchers believe 40 percent of these expensive readmissions can be avoided with proper post-acute care. One participant in the Anthem program reportedly saved $30,000 in unnecessary charges between March and July at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles--not to mention his life--by getting an early warning of heart arrhythmia from his wireless monitor.

A study due out today in the journal Circulation indicates that implantable defibrillators with wireless data transmitters reduced the frequency of in-hospital evaluations by 45 percent for a test group of CHF patients. Doctors were able to evaluate suspected cardiac events in less than two days with the defibrillators, vs. 36 days for a control group.

To learn more:
- take a look at this Wall Street Journal story
- read this study abstract in Circulation