HCF and telephone health counselling provider Healthways Australia have partnered to trial the use of a Bluetooth-enabled glucometer to improve health outcomes for HCF clients.
The partnership is running an open-ended trial to gauge patient acceptance of electronic blood sugar level reporting through the patient's mobile phone. While the technology is not new, Healthways managing director Tim Morphy said the increasing cost-effectiveness of such devices was making widespread use more of a reality.
“The great thing about this – and this is what has really changed – is that while this technology has existed for a long time, it has been profoundly expensive,” Mr Morphy said. “There will be far more of this going forward now that the cost structure of these things has become far more palatable for everyone.”
Healthways provides nurse-led telephonic health information and counselling for the clients of a number of organisations, including insurers HCF and the Teachers Health Fund. It also runs the Well-Being Connect behaviour change web application.
It also provides chronic disease management support to some NSW Health agencies, including a recent partnership with the Hunter New England Local Health District to provide phone coaching from registered nurses to people with chronic conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This service is also used by the South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Shoalhaven local health districts.
Mr Morphy said there was obvious room for other medical devices to be used in a similar way, including blood pressure readers and spirometers. “Healthways is already doing this in the US with scales – doing weight measurements,” he said. “The device is in effect a simple thing but it is the technology and the process by which [data] is captured in the back-end system that is the key.”
He said regular measurements for a range of chronic illnesses can be done with any Bluetooth-enabled device that transmits data, “but the question is, who wants all of this data?” he said. “The GP is not in the position to be having all of this streamed to them, so you need the system to deal with massive amounts of data and that's what Healthways is effectively able to do – accept massive streams of data and deal with it efficiently."
At present, reports can be printed out and sent to GPs, or for the client to take it to the GP personally, but the long-term ideas is to be able to share it with them electronically, with the patient's consent.
Mr Morphy said the trial is open-ended and will have six-monthly reviews. “What all parties want is to see it expand and we are looking at expanding it both around the glucometer and the opportunities for other devices as they come on the market.
“There is the whole question of people being comfortable with new technologies, so this is testing the patient acceptance of the technology and making sure everyone is comfortable. This can be done using your smartphone, which most people have now got, so it can completely change how the world looks from a health perspective. That's why I think it is so exciting.”
Healthways Australia announced this week an agreement to move much of its ICT infrastructure to Telstra's cloud services.
Healthways' director of IT and clinical systems, Riaan Rheeder, said the private cloud would give the company greater flexibility to respond quickly to the market. “[It] certainly provides us with quick take up scalability to expand our environment through Telstra’s Next IP virtual servers,” he said.