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May 10, 2006

Connected Healthcare: creative deconstruction

As part of my coverage of the MIT Enterprise Forum conference "Connected Healthcare" from this past Thursday, this post will cover the presentation by Douglas McClure, Corporate Manager, Partners Telemedicine.

He mentioned that his organization was a group of 30 individuals who are in the active pursuit of the "creative deconstruction of healthcare." This he followed by saying that they had a simultaneous pursuit of "allowing healthcare to scale." Basically, this means using tele-medicine projects to reduce hospital and clinic costs while attempting to service the burgeoning elderly population, especially when treating and managing patient with such chronic diseases as CHF, HTN, COPD and diabetes. He also cites what he calls the "Pareto Principle on Steroids." Instead of the well-known 80/20 rule, for his patient population, 4% generate 40% of the costs.

Given these realities, more efficient care of these patients is necessary. As one example, he talked about the Partners Wound Care program, where a nurse specializing in wound care is sent out to visit patients at home, some times 2x to 4x per day, at a cost of "$120 a pop." One idea is to have the patients use cell phone cameras to photograph these lesions and transmit them to the clinic as a better way of judging the healing progress. Right now, despite the megapixel cameras which are available on some cell phones, the lens is the limiting factor. When the optics are improved, he feels that this will be a workable solution.

Orb This lead to another project in the works, which he is testing in his home, using devices called the Sim Pill and the ambient orb. For a little background, the ambient orb, is just a translucent globe with an lcd that turns different colors based upon data input. It has been used to monitor the Dow, red if it were on the downturn, and green for a rise. This way it could act as a quick visualize reference prompting you to think, should I do something? In his application, the orb is networked with an electronic pill box, the Sim Pill which monitors if you'r taking your meds or not. By quickly glancing at the orb, the patient can tell if he or she is being compliant.

Finally, he mentioned his org's Web site, www.connected-health.org/, which has a discussion forum.

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