Big Connected Health Symposium: What Video Games, Social Networking, and Other Tech Innovations Are Doing for Healthcare

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readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of their release. “A lot of the re-admittances are preventable,” he said. “We believe that [telemedicine] offers an intervention” to reduce that number. A major hurdle in the telemedicine industry is that users of the technology can rarely get reimbursed for the expenses and aren’t given incentives for using the tools to reduce healthcare costs. Philips and other firms are pushing for the use of telemedicine—defined as the use hardware and software in the homes of patients with chronic diseases for physicians to coordinate care and monitor symptoms and vital signs—to become the accepted standard care for patients with heart failure.

—Video games have already proven effective in reducing anxiety for patients undergoing anesthesia and in improving adherence to cancer drugs, among other health benefits, according to Sawyer, of Games for Health. And many Americans are already more accustomed to storing their health information in Wii Fit exercise games than in personal electronic health records. He called for video game technology to be better utilized to reach patients for improving many facets of health care. (Sawyer mentioned that his firm is developing a healthcare-related application for the iPhone, but he said that he couldn’t discuss the project in detail.)

—There appeared to be some consensus that no proven business model has emerged for companies in the Health 2.0 industry, at least among panelists during a breakout session on online communities in healthcare. “I don’t think anyone has quite figured out the business model,” said Sermo’s Palestrant, whose company has attracted clients from the pharmaceutical, government, and investment sectors to pay for access to its online community of physicians. Heywood, of PatientsLikeMe, said that he believed the Health 2.0 movement was still immature and it’s still unclear which companies will succeed.

—Though the financial systems are not yet in place to make it practical, people using PatientsLikeMe could eventually tap social networks such as Sermo to get second opinions on their conditions from real doctors, said Heywood. “Those types of ideas” become feasible “as we build medical information frameworks,” he said. (We may have witnessed the seed of an idea that could lead to a partnership between PatientsLikeMe and Sermo.) Doctors should take notice of their patients’ participation in social networks, though, because Heywood said that 10 percent of the patients who join PatientsLikeMe fired their doctors after learning about their diseases from their peers.

—A common sentiment among several panelists at the symposium was that entrenched stakeholders in the healthcare system such as large hospital chains currently have an economic incentive not to adopt telemedicine technologies, because they get paid by Medicare and other payers for seeing patients in traditional clinical settings. “They have an established interest in the status quo,” said Derek Newell, a vice president for Bosch Healthcare. (Interestingly, those who have listened to Joseph Kvedar, the director of Partners’ Center for Connected Health, have heard him say that his organization is dedicated to putting traditional hospitals out of business. So perhaps Boston-based Partners, which includes members such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has a more open mind about telemedicine than some of its counterparts.)

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