Wired for Health

Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart arrhythmia, are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the treatment of chronic diseases accounts for 86% of the health care costs in the United States and represents a monumental burden on the health care system.

New technologies, including mobile health devices designed to enable patients to better monitor and manage chronic conditions, are being developed to try to reduce the strain that these diseases exert on health care resources. However, due to their relative novelty, little is known about what the impact of these devices on health care utilization truly is.

The Wired for Health clinical study, conducted by researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), aimed to evaluate whether the integration of wireless technologies, online social networks and medicine can have a direct effect on health care utilization and spending.

In designing the trial, researchers were eager to create an intervention that would closely simulate a future approach to chronic disease monitoring – one that engages the patient, empowers the physician, and leverages both mobile health technology and more traditional health education and disease management programs.

A total of 160 individuals who had submitted health insurance claims billed for three study conditions – diabetes, hypertension, or arrhythmia – were enrolled. Participants, who took part for a six-month period, were randomized into either a control or intervention group. Individuals assigned to the intervention group were provided with one or more mobile devices that corresponded with their health condition(s). In addition to the devices, the participants received an iPhone so that they could link their devices with mobile phone applications, as well as access to HealthCircles™, an online health care coordination and management platform developed by QualcommLife. All participants, including those in the control group, were enrolled in a disease management program, which involved educational outreach by nursing staff who distributed information regarding disease prevention and chronic disease management.

Analysis of insurance claims submitted during the study period showed no difference between the control and intervention groups, suggesting that substantial short-term changes in health care utilization as a result of monitoring are unlikely.

The study findings were outlined in a publication in PeerJ in January 2016.