Wireless Health Summit Looks to “Engaged Consumer” to Drive Change

5/24/13Follow @bvbigelow

In the beginning, the Wireless Health Convergence Summit was viewed as a way to bring innovation to reality, according to Rob McCray, a co-founder and CEO of the San Diego-based Wireless Life Sciences Alliance, which organizes the annual conference.

“At that first meeting, we had some people who wondered why a technology company would want to get together with a life sciences company,” McCray said. “We spent a lot of time talking about what was possible.”

Now in its eighth year, the summit is trying to shift the focus from the intersection of healthcare and wireless technologies, and a fixation on providers and payers, to what McCray calls “the engaged health consumer.” It’s a shift that reflects broader changes underway in the healthcare industry.

Just a few weeks ago, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released pricing data charged by 3,300 hospitals nationwide—showing that hospital billing varies wildly for the same medical procedure throughout the United States. This was preceded just a couple months earlier by “Bitter Pill,” a Time magazine cover story by the journalist, lawyer, and entrepreneur Steven Brill, who begins his special report by asking a simple health-policy question: “Why exactly are the bills so high?”

Rob McCray

Brill’s answer, in 24,105 words or less, is because they can—and because there are practically no countervailing forces to stop them. When I met McCray recently for a working lunch, he called Brill’s report “shocking,” and said it is one of the reasons healthcare will change more in the next five years than it has in the previous 20. He contends that the engaged health consumer, technology innovation, and changing market economics (perhaps with a little regulatory help) will drive changes through the healthcare industry in the same way that IT innovation has disrupted banking and other industries.

“There really isn’t any incentive to do a better job, or to be more efficient, when you have a reimbursement structure that is based on volume—on the number of visits,” McCray said. If the reimbursement structure was instead based on outcomes, the industry might finally have an incentive to maintain patients in good health.

“The engaged health consumer is my terminology for getting … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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