E-HEALTH: Checkups Via Internet Available for Chronically Ill
Health Buddy, a small portable device developed by Health Hero Network Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., now allows doctors to monitor their chronically ill patients via the Internet. With nearly 1,000 nationwide members who pay an estimated $25 per month, Health Hero is one of three California-based companies that last year began using the Internet to monitor the health of chronically ill patients. Health Buddy allows doctors to watch hundreds of patients at one time by processing patients' answers to health questions online, via a telephone hook-up. Physicians access patient information using a secret password and are alerted to any signs of trouble, including sudden weight gain or failure to take medications. The service also gives doctors immediate results of home tests, such as breathing tests for asthmatics and blood glucose machines for diabetics. Health plans -- which spend a large portion of their budgets on chronic illness -- support the approach, saying that if problems can be caught earlier, patients may avoid costly hospital stays. Jeff Goldsmith, a health care strategist and president of Health Futures Inc., said, "The Internet provides a superb platform for health plans to maintain continuous contact with their patients. Disease management is a two-way process, and it fits the Internet like a glove." Additionally, both doctors and patients trust and like the new service. Dr. Richard Miller, director of the Sacramento-based Mercy Heart Institute, uses the system to monitor 115 patients with congestive heart failure. He said, "This is just the beginning. This is the way chronic disease management is going to go." Developers expect pharmacies will also join the system, while PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that all homes will be equipped with virtual health agents to screen for disease by 2015 (Galewitz, AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.