Healthcare providers worldwide are focused on improving patient monitoring and enhance health outcomes by using various IT tools and innovative technologies including wearable devices. Governments in different countries in collaboration with major insurance companies and private players offer preventive healthcare plans and programs. As part of managed care, these programs include the delivery of various healthcare packages by providing financial incentives that not only boost the adoption of wearable devices, but also help track the vital health data. A U.S. based health insurance provider major UnitedHealth Group and chip-maker Qualcomm Incorporated, through its wholly owned subsidiary Qualcomm Life, Inc., have launched UnitedHealthcare Motion™, a nation-wide wellness program that will provide employees with a range of wearable devices without charging any additional cost. This nationwide program, currently available in 12 states and Washington, D.C., links patients and their wearable devices to an ambitious plan that offers financial incentives for reaching health goals and specific outcomes. The employees can earn financial rewards of up to $1,460 per year for meeting specific walking goals. This will motivate employees to lead a healthier lifestyle. The health benefit plan was announced at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in March this year. More programs are planned between the partnering companies to provide connected health solutions to include employers and people across the nation, thereby transforming managed healthcare. Plans are underway to get permission from more state regulators to expand, throughout the United States where the main goal of the employers would be to offer high-deductible insurance plans to improve healthcare outcome.
The industry-leading health information technology conference was recently concluded on 4th March in Las Vegas. The conference also known as HIMSS16 featured among other key healthcare IT developments, many breakthroughs in mhealth tools and online technology such as cloud based systems, which actively transform healthcare outcomes and enhance patient engagement. Patient monitoring through wearable devices have long been a crucial part of physician practice's bottom line. Healthcare providers and various stakeholders including clinicians and hospital staff are witnessed to be actively involved in developing an online wellness infrastructure through the design of patient portals to increase patient engagement. The wellness program uses a Trio Tracker device consisting of wearable technology including Fitbit or Jawbone device and offers numerous benefits.
The announcement by the collaborators UnitedHealth and Qualcomm was unique, since the engagement will incorporate the data from the wearable device and home diagnostic tests into a massive integrated database in medical-care provider network of the insurance company. Reiterating on the financial rewards this plan offers, Steve Beecy, VP, UnitedHealthcare, “On any given day, a covered employee and their spouse can earn $4 a day… Not everybody is going to achieve all those numbers every day, but we put the cost of the device and the incentives are in the insurance premium so they are paid for”.
Witnessing the benefits and outreach of these managed care plans, governments in partnership with private players in different countries are proactive in incorporating such financial incentives-linked benefits to their prominent healthcare plans. Successful implementation of such programs, however, witness some constraints, mostly in terms of reliability and accuracy of the wealth of data collected by these wearable devices, apart from ethical concerns. Creating awareness of significant health reimbursements credits employers can earn, along with ensuring confidentiality of their health data, would enable companies get faster rollout approval of such insurance plans by the regional agencies. To this end, insurance companies and technology providers need to create an efficient technical and regulatory pathway to consumer-mediated sharing. This can be achieved by adequately defining who can and who cannot access their health information along with taking all other associated measures sincerely to protect health information.
For instance, Qualcomm Life, has brought “medical grade connectivity” to the partnership by assuring security mechanism of patient data as per the compliance with the federal HIPAA privacy rules. But this should not stop here. According to companies involved in cybersecurity expert’s healthcare providers and payer organizations should conduct a timely and systematic risk assessment of all the potential risks and related vulnerabilities. Such initiatives becomes supremely important in order to implement world-class security practices and increase the benefits of innovative online patient-engagement platforms. This is expected to boost the growth of healthcare IT industry across regions.