Verizon is taking a leap into the healthcare market with its launch of Converged Health Management, a remote patient monitoring platform that connects patients and clinicians in between doctor visits.
The platform transmits data collected from at-home biometric devices via a wireless connection to its server that resides in Verizon's HIPAA-secure cloud. All data is transmitted directly to the cloud; there's no manual input.
Verizon partnered with Ideal Life, a medical device company, to provide the platform's four available device capabilities: measuring blood pressure, oxygen saturation, glucose levels and weight. More devices and brands will eventually be added, said Julie Kling, the director of mobile health product management at Verizon.
The platform can integrate with any electronic health record (EHR) using an API.
"This is a venture that could conceivably have legs by virtue of the fact that everybody recognizes the criticality of integrating home monitoring devices into EHRs," said Rich Temple, national practice director at Beacon Partners, a healthcare consulting firm. "That hasn't been done on a grand scale yet."
Converged Health Management is considered a medical device and received FDA approval in August. In addition to its remote monitoring capabilities, the platform provides educational tools for patients, a rewards system for achieving tasks like measuring blood pressure twice a day, and a social network for patients to engage with each other anonymously.
Patients access the platform through a mobile app or Web portal. Clinicians access a separate website to view the data.
Like all remote patient monitoring device systems, the challenge lies in leveraging the data so that it's meaningful and not an infinite set of data points.
"Doctors have a habit that if they didn't request the information, they don't pay attention to it," said Joseph Kvedar, founder and director at the Center for Connected Health, a healthcare organization that develops health technology, conducts research and provides consulting services. "Most doctors in our system who have helped develop programs like this are looking to get meaningful slices of information, not thousands of normal pieces. This requires a decision support program."
Converged Health Management's clinician dashboard gives clinicians the ability to see trends and spikes in data, and provides alerts if patients aren't checking their biometrics as often as needed.
Verizon entering the market as a non-healthcare entity has its advantages and disadvantages. It's a plus that it can use its pre-existing 4G LTE network to wirelessly transmit data in a fairly seamless fashion.
"What's important is that this isn't really them doing healthcare," Kvedar said. "It's them moving health information. Since they're pretty good at moving information, they'll probably do a very good job with that."
"Verizon is a company that hasn't really been in the muck and mire of the healthcare process flow," Temple said. "They have to design something friendly for physicians and make the information actionable so clinicians don't need to go through reams of statistics to find what's meaningful."
Getting physicians onboard is important, but the real test will be attracting patients.
"Adoption will be exciting to the people who already are motivated to stay healthy," Kvedar said. "They can now easily capture biometric data and get it into doctors' hands. The notion is that the people we really want to get on programs like this are people who don't have that innate motivation to really improve their health."
Converged Health Management is available for purchase by U.S. health insurance companies, integrated delivery networks, hospitals, large provider groups and self-funded employers.
Does Verizon's entrance into the market mean an exit for smaller healthcare companies? Not necessarily. Established companies and startups alike may be more likely to collaborate with Verizon than run in the other direction.
"People will want to innovate off this platform," Kvedar said. "It will be more of an aggregator than a disruptor.
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