mHealth Summit keynoters focus on technology and consumerism

In his remarks during a keynote address at the mHealth Summit on Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C., Aetna CEO Marc Bertolini told attendees that  mHealth will be critical to patients getting involved in their health, and patient engagement will be a major driver in cutting out wasteful spending in healthcare.

Healthcare organizations need to make it as easy and convenient for patients to participate in their health as it is for them to shop online, Bertolini commented. Aetna is putting that approach into action in March by rolling out its CarePass platform, which will connect, organize and store applications and health information on a user’s smartphone.

[See also: Aetna launches PCMH program in Connecticut and New Jersey]

The Aetna platform, which is currently available for PCs, offers 20 popular health and fitness apps to enable patients to manage and control their health and connect with their physicians with a secure single sign-on, according to Bertolini.

To date, various approaches to rein in healthcare costs have not worked. The nation wastes about $750 billion in spending in a $2.7 trillion healthcare system, according to an Institute of Medicine study that Bertolini cited.

So patient engagement is an important tool when considering the national debt and looming “fiscal cliff.”

[See also: mHealth survey results point to formalization of mobile health policies]

“We can’t get to that $750 billion that we waste every year in the healthcare system unless we get away from the carrot-and-stick approach and make it so simple [that] it’s like getting out of bed in the morning,” Bertolini said.

“The only way to make it work is to facilitate the relationship between patients and doctors, to get out of their way, to give them cover from a risk standpoint of re-insurance and let the system really work,” he said.

“If we were to solve that waste problem, we could solve half of our nation’s debt over the next decade. If we fixed just half of that problem, we could do what the Bowles-Simpson Commission proposes over the next decade. If we solve just 20 percent of the waste in our healthcare system today, we can pay for the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

For patients to become engaged, it will have to be as convenient to seek out a physician, set up appointments, receive test results and participate in health and nutrition programs “as buying a sweater online, finding the Macy’s where to buy it and directions to get there,” Bertolini said.

To do that, Aetna wants to produce a network effect to drive more use on both the provider and consumer sides. Aetna also has established a non-proprietary developer’s portal.

iTriage, the first app that became available on the platform, lets users download lab tests and other information, or ask about a symptom. Because the apps and user health information are connected on the platform, the patient can search for a physician in and out of the network who could treat the symptom, find where the provider is located and make an appointment, while also applying personal preferences. “Think of it as e-Harmony for finding my doctors,” Bertolini remarked.

The empowered consumer

Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts, also delivered a morning keynote addresses on Dec. 3.

Surescripts, an electronic prescribing network, has transformed itself, said Totonis.

When industries restructure, they bend the cost curve and rediscover the customer, he explained. The customer then becomes engaged and empowered. That’s happened in the financial services, consumer services like travel, and the manufacturing sector.

“Restructuring is underway, and the patient has to be in the middle. Technology and connectivity are key drivers,” he said, adding that “we are on the precipice of big changes in healthcare.”

“By connecting and sharing with the patient, you put the patient in the workflow,” he said, leading to better patient care and improved outcomes.

The pharmaceutical industry in general, and Surescripts in particular, invested in connectivity before the HITECH Act authorized the incentive program for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records. Electronic prescribing resulted in fewer medication errors, reduced adverse drug events, was 10 percent of the cost of paper, and changed patient behavior because providers could track when medications were picked up.

As a result, Surescripts expanded its connectivity and now can share physician referrals, discharge summaries, immunization records and clinical care summaries.