In the News

WASHINGTON – Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would tap wireless technology to prevent complications and deaths due to chronic diseases. According to Peters, the Health Savings Through Technology Act, H.R. 3577, advocates  “a smarter way to deliver health care in the United States.”

“Currently, the federal government does a poor job of taking into account the cost-effectiveness of technological innovation over the long term when making budget projections,” Peters said in a Nov. 21 news release. “This short-sighted process is a disincentive to innovation and harms the potential for technology to reduce the cost of providing health care.”

A recent Centers for Disease Control report shows that almost 50 percent of Americans have at least one chronic illness. Additionally, 7 of 10 deaths each year in America are due to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Peters says experts believe chronic diseases can be more efficiently prevented and treated by using new innovations like the wireless technologies encouraged by this legislation.

“The vast majority of Americans now use some sort of mobile device today; people can now monitor glucose levels, track calories, or be alerted to harmful drug interactions over their phone or tablet,” Peters said. “San Diego is ahead of the curve in wireless health care discovery so providing incentives for it supports economic growth in my district, and helps bend the cost curve across the country.”

With more than 300 million mobile subscriptions in the United States, wireless devices are clearly pervasive in American life and have the potential to help doctors provide quality care at lower costs, Peters said. Both patients and providers can monitor patient health and guide self-care via their wireless devices, beyond the clinical setting. This improves patient outcomes and efficiency in the system, cuts down on unnecessary trips to the doctor or emergency room, and reduces health care costs over time.

The ‘Health Savings Through Technology Act’ would create a commission to inventory existing data, examine the cost-savings that can be achieved by increasing the use of wireless health technologies, and develop a comprehensive strategy for integrating these technologies into federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, which often serve the mobility-impaired and elderly.

The bill is endorsed by a host of private sector and nonprofit groups, including BIOCOM, BayBio, Qualcomm, CONNECT, the American Telemedicine Association and the California Healthcare Institute.

“Health information technologies – particularly wireless and mobile technologies – hold the promise to revolutionize health care. Improved assessments of the actual value of innovative technologies are crucial to encouraging the development of new technologies,” Todd Gillenwater, California Health Institute's senior vice president, said in a letter of support for the legislation.

In San Diego, numerous companies are already working to integrate wireless technology into the health care system, and this legislation would help grow the industry, providing new jobs in the region’s innovation economy.

A letter of support from the American Telemedicine Association read in part: “ATA supports … legislation to establish a Commission. [This bill] will also explore how mobile technologies can fundamentally change health care delivery for the longstanding approach of the patient having to go to the care to a truly patient-centered approach of having the care go to the patient -- anywhere anytime.”

This is the second digital health-focused piece of legislation that Congressman Peters has introduced. Last week he introduced the bipartisan H.R. 3507, the 21st Century Care for Military & Veterans Act, with Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), which would expand reimbursement policies covering the use of telehealth services, including mental health monitoring, under TRICARE and the VA Medical System.

According to Peters, evidence of how wireless health solutions can reduce costs associated with service delivery includes:

* Remote monitoring programs reduced hospital admission rates for chronic heart failure by 21 percent; annual savings exceeding $10 billion/year;

* Video visits led to a 20 percent reduction in expensive Emergency Room admissions and a 14 percent reduction in bed days, cutting hospital expenses by 44 percent;

* Wireless reminder instrument led to a 27 percent higher rate of patients who took blood pressure medication on time;

* Using behavioral mobile coaching and individually analyzed health data substantially reduced glycated hemoglobin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, generating system cost savings.