Buckle Your Safety Belt, Connected Health is Taking Off in 2015

While so many folks were writing about their impressions of 2014, I was enjoying the holidays with my family.  During that time I was thinking about the notable events of 2014 in connected health, but more importantly how they will set the stage for 2015, which is poised to be a breakout year.

One year ago, Gregg Meyer, MD rejoined the Partners HealthCare network as Chief Clinical Officer.  One of his initial moves was to bring the Center for Connected Health under his jurisdiction.  For 19 years we were part of the IT apparatus at Partners.  We thrived under that leadership, but the perception within our system and of the rest of the world was that we offered a set of IT tools.  I had said some years ago that as connected health matured, our leadership would adopt the vision that connected health is really about changing the way that care is delivered.  Technology plays a supporting, not a leading role.  Gregg shares that vision and after consultation with our CEO, Gary Gottlieb, brought connected health into the clinical fold. Connected health now shares the stage along with his other major initiatives, namely, QSV (Quality, Safety and Value), Population Health, and Partners eCare. It has been tremendously rewarding for me to work with Gregg over this year as well as with my colleagues in these other areas.  We are creating a strategy that will integrate connected health into the fabric of everyday care delivery in multiple ways over the next several years.

Supporting this strategy, and underscoring the increasingly important role connected health will play at Partners and throughout health care, Partners made the decision to create a new position on the executive team, Vice President, Connected Health, and asked me to fill it.  It is with humility and excitement that I look out at 2015 and the opportunities these developments bring.

It’s clear connected health has turned a corner, making the transition from ‘curiosity’ and ‘future’ to everyday use. Provider organizations large and small are spending energy on how to integrate sensors, mobile devices and virtual visits into their care delivery.  Some are doing so because they are entering into value-based payment relationships, or are more motivated to think differently after seeing their Medicare readmissions penalties. Some are simply realizing they have to be part of the 21st century, responding consumers and patients asking for more virtual care.

On the commercial side we saw large companies moving into the connected health space.  Big announcements, especially from Apple, but also from Samsung, Microsoft and others portend a big push in consumer involvement.  As you cruise through Staples, Best Buy or the Apple Store, you can’t help but notice the plethora of consumer connected health devices and their prominent placement in these stores.  We’ll be sensing everything, all of the time, before long.

Image Source: DailyTech  http://www.dailytech.com/Fitbits+249+Surge+Fitness+Watch+Packs+7Day+Battery+Life+Two+Other+Models+Also+Air/article36782.htm
Image Source: DailyTech

Of course sensing is only part of the magic.  Particularly when addressing the chronically ill, a focus on motivation, engagement and behavioral health is key.  This is much harder, it turns out, than sensor performance, connectivity, etc., and something our research team is actively working on.  Our designs need to incorporate personalization, integrate into everyday life and reinforce social connections.

Passengers Using Mobile Devices On Bus Journey

In 2014, we also saw the first concrete evidence that the pharmaceutical industry is serious about incorporating connected health into therapeutic offerings.  In fact, we’re proud that we are executing a collaborative research and development agreement with Daichi Sankyo that will bring a bundled connected health/therapeutic product to market.  Others will surely follow suit.

Topping the year off was the announcement by CMS that they will begin to reimburse for chronic care management (CCM) in 2015.  This is the first acknowledgement from CMS that connected health is mainstreamable.  The interesting thing about the new CCM code is that it acknowledges the value of care management that is not face-to-face and that is delivered by non-physician providers. While it does not specifically call out remote monitoring as a tool, remote monitoring is an ideal use case for this new code.  It will enable us to engage with providers, particularly primary care physicians who have modernized their practices using a team-based (or patient-centered medical home) approach.  This code enables us to approach this market with an ROI-based business proposition rather than some of the hand-waving we’ve employed in the past.   It is still early going and I plan to write a more lengthy post on this development soon, but I predict this will bring a big lift to connected health as a tool for chronic illness management.

Partners HealthCare Center for Connected Health's 2010 Progress Report, Forward Currents

As I look back at my previous 20 years worth of New Year thoughts, I can’t remember a year where we saw more tangible movement toward mainstream adoption.  Those of us who deliver services into this market had better strap on our safety belts because 2015 promises to be a fast ride – unlike any we’ve seen to date.