Most agree that the U.S. health care system is ailing. A 2013 report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine found that around 30 percent of U.S. health spending in 2009 was wasted on unnecessary services, fraud and other problems. But what may be less obvious is that broader use of data and analytics to identify inefficiencies could eliminate some of this unnecessary spending, in addition to improve health care outcomes.
One way to enable more data-driven innovation in health care is through the adoption of wireless technologies, such as devices that allow individuals to track their personal health or allow health care providers to remotely monitor their patients. Wireless technologies also help improve access for rural and underserved populations, enable real-time reporting of health data, and broaden the range of data collected about patients, including data such as glucose levels, blood pressure, and medication adherence. Health care providers can use this data to identify when patients do or do not need a checkup, thus eliminating unnecessary offices visits and their associated costs. In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission recommended that wireless health technologies be integrated into routine medical best practices within five years. A coordinated effort to integrate these technologies and the data they collect into U.S. health care programs is necessary to promote interoperability and best practices nationally.
Although most adults in the United States use mobile devices, the uptake of wireless technologies within the U.S. healthcare system has only just begun. But one step in that direction came last week when Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3577, the “Health Savings Through Technology Act.” The bill would create an independent commission tasked with proposing policies that would promote the use of lifesaving and cost-saving wireless technologies in the U.S. health care system. The commission would investigate potential benefits of wireless technologies and examine how federal funding and incentive systems could promote the adoption of these technologies. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could use incentive payments to ensure that next-generation electronic health records systems support patient-generated health data, as called for by the Center for Data Innovation and others. In addition, the commission would investigate market barriers to private sector innovation in these technologies. The President, Congress, HHS, and the FCC would each be responsible for appointing some of the 19 members of the commission, which would meet at least nine times over its lifetime and issue at least two reports.
Policymakers should make the use of novel, data-driven approaches the rule rather than the exception in health care. Greater use of wireless technologies would be a good step towards better collecting and integrating patient health data into health care decisions.