Will M2M & Mobility Become Health Care Game Changers?

| Health Care, Technology

International Data Group forecasts that there will be 20 billion wirelessly connected devices by 2020. Today, there are 7 billion people on our planet and 5 billion cell phones.

How will this be possible?

Answer: M2M

M2M is machine-to-machine technology. In the 1990’s it enabled high-frequency trading, and some hedge fund managers became billionaires. Things can go wrong, however, as we saw recently when Knight Capital lost $440 million in 40 minutes due to an M2M software algorithm error.

Our $2.6 trillion health and wellness industry is poised to be the biggest beneficiary of M2M technology in this decade.  Here’s just one example of why.

Obesity has been growing at epidemic rates. If Americans were each to lose 20 pounds, our health system could save an estimated $250 billion every year.

One of the most significant metrics for insurance payers is MLR ( Medical Loss Ratio), a measurement which long has been the Holy Grail of disease management. Even a slight bending downwards of the MLR cost curve will translate into billions of dollars of savings for the health insurance industry.

Until now, this has been an expensive and labor intensive process requiring human case managers to meet daily face-to-face or by phone with chronic care patients, often with uneven results.

My brother David Sculley, a former Weight Watchers CEO, learned that just getting overweight people into a routine of weighing themselves daily had a huge positive impact on their weight loss – an impact even greater than getting people to sign up for a diet plan.

Now we have the capability for using M2M mobile apps to prompt consumers who want to lose weight via personalized goal setting and follow-up messages with alerts to information relative to their weight reduction progress. Scales, blood pressure instruments, heart monitoring, and diabetics’ blood sugar tests all can be monitored via appropriate miniaturized sensors, transmitted to one’s smart phone and uploaded from there to the cloud.

Think of cloud computing as merely a utility service, but one that costs a fraction of what traditional client/server data centers cost, with the power to use Big Data analytics to scale customized health analytics to levels almost unimaginable a few years ago.

The “quants” – math wizards and computer programmers – recruited to the financial services industry to create powerful algorithms are now being recruited to develop Big Data analytics for healthcare startups.  Slowly, archaic healthcare regulations and protocols are being digitized and electronic health records are being connected.  One of the most difficult challenges is connecting the health records of chronic care patients, who typically have several doctor specialists with no records interoperability.

A few healthcare start-ups are building population health content into mobile apps with rule-set-driven expert systems that incorporate M2M Big Data analytic services. These systems can send health and wellness auto alerts, consumer incentives and rewards, and relevant media content personalized to each consumer member.  Such programs will be integrated with important health insurance payer information such as benefits management, medical insurance claims data, doctor clinical reports, pharmacy claims data, and HRA (Health Risk Assessment) services.

An analogy to which I can relate easily is, wireless sensors are at an early stage of development equivalent to where microprocessor technology was when I joined the personal computer industry 30 years ago. The future possibilities for medical sensors that monitor vital signs in real time may well become game changers for our unsustainably costly health and wellness system.