HealthNetConnect on the Future of Telemedicine, Remote House Calls

Judging by last month’s Medical Main Street conference held in Troy, MI, health IT has never been hotter in Michigan. Among the many companies looking to compete on this crowded field is a Michigan medical supply company that has developed a remote diagnostic system that is already being used by major local hospitals.

J&B Medical Supply, based in Wixom, MI, is the corporate parent of HealthNetConnect, a telemedicine software company that it spun out six years ago. Corky Davis, HealthNetConnect’s COO, says the company was started in anticipation of the explosion in patient populations that would come as baby boomers aged.

“They’re retiring with chronic diseases with a shortage of healthcare providers,” Davis explains. “A lot of health providers are baby boomers with chronic diseases. At the same time, costs are going up. We wanted to close the gap.”

HealthNetConnect also wanted to get patients involved in their own care. The company identified the management of heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes as the “low-hanging fruit.” According to Davis, hospitals are also eager to allow patients to use telemedicine at home to cut down on post-discharge re-admissions, which is where hospitals lose a lot of money. (If a patient returns less than 30 days after discharge, he says hospitals eat the costs.)

HealthNetConnect offers a plug and play system called VideoDoc, which connects patients to healthcare providers through the patient’s cell phone. The system includes a portable controller that looks a bit like a large tablet and a number of handheld monitoring devices that patients can use to measure things like blood pressure and glucose levels, weight, lung function, pulse, and heart rate.

There are a few simple icons on the home screen that connect patients to clinics and allow them to upload their vitals. Doctors can log in from anywhere to check the data and create custom alerts to manage patient care.

HealthCareConnect also has the capability to do virtual triage, Davis says. HealthNetConnect’s home monitoring system includes a camera developed with Sony that allows doctors use their fingers on a touch screen to control the camera and examine their patients head to toe.

“Doctors have told us that 99 percent of the time, they don’t need to see a patient hands on,” Davis says. “They just need to look at them and read the data.”

However, Davis acknowledges that there are plenty of telemedicine startups attempting to solve the same patient issues as HealthNetConnect. What makes his company stand out? Most of the competing telemedicine software systems, he says, need a land line to connect. “But health care is about face-to-face encounters. Some have video capability, but can’t read the physiological data. Some record vitals, but don’t have video. We have both.”

Despite the competition, some local health care providers have already signed up to deploy HealthNetConnect’s products. St. John Providence health system in Southeast Michigan used HealthNetConnect in a pilot program last year for patients with lung disease. As a result, Davis says the hospital was able to cut re-admissions by 71 percent.

HealthNetConnect is being used by Hurley Medical Center in Flint for remote prenatal exams, and by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit for remote exams of patients recovering from strokes and recently discharged patients with lung disease, among other clinical settings. It’s also being used by wealthy patients in Saudi Arabia who want instant access to Western medicine. “They can use it for a monthly fee instead of hopping in their helicopter [after something goes wrong],” Davis says.

HealthNetConnect is also working with veterans and the healthcare providers who serve them to try and reach patients who live 60 miles or more from a VA hospital. The company would also like one day to provide remote triage services to active military in the field. In total, Davis says the remote care market is projected to be worth $18 billion.

“We believe this is the future of healthcare,” Davis adds. “There’s a hunger for technology on the part of patients. They want to have care givers at their fingertips.”

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