Sunday, May 22, 2011

Recommendations for Health Reform Innovation Prize

May 22, 2011- Today’s Sunday New York Times contains an article by Steve Lohr, my favorite writer on health care innovation. The article, “Change The World and Win Fabulous Prizes, “ describes prizes being offered for health reform innovators.

• One is by Heritage Provider Network in Southern California. The Network is comprised of 9 private medical groups, 33 urgent care centers, and 10 affiliated health plans. The prize is $3 million, to be rewarded over the course of two years and designed to lure experts in Internet software, as well as first class minds from other fields. Richard Merkin, MD, CEO of Heritage Provider Networks, says ,”We want to bring in brilliant people not necessarily steeped in health care, but steeped in data analysis.” The prize will be awarded to those who can predict those at most risk of being hospitalized so they can be kept out of hospitals where 30% of health costs occur. Studies estimated 30% of these hospitalizations could be avoided.

• The others are a series of prizes being offered in contests sponsored by the federal government totaling $50 million in legislation passed by the government, the America Competes Act. You can learn more about this at, a government web site devoted to the idea of tapping ideas from citizens. Todd Park, chief technology officer of the Department of Health and Human Services, says these prizes will be a mainstream tool for the government to encourage innovation. Examples might be seamlessly exchanging information among hospitals, clinics, and physicians or making health data in electronic health records easy to read and use.

I would like the Heritage Provider Network and the government to consider giving prizes to two ideas, which I have written about before.

1. To Steve Anderson and his colleagues at Shape Medical Systems in St. Paul, Minnesota. Steve, an exercise physiologist and his co-workers have developed a portable Shape-HF cardiac-pulmonary testing device, which allows a physician in his office or a trained medical technician in any location to evaluate the cause of shortness of breath and the odds of hospitalization or sudden death. With this device, data from a individual patient and from thousands of patients tested before hospitalization for heart and/or lung disease, can accurately predict the risk of hospitalization. The Shape Medical System device is portable and inexpensive, can be applied by lesser trained personnel , and contains a laptop bearing predictive software that automatically interprets the results.

2. To Randy Moore. MD., Randy Moore, MD, CEO of American Telecare, Inc, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, whose firm has placed audiovisual devices connected by ordinary phone lines at the bedside of chronically ill home bound patients. Through these devices, doctors and nurses can monitor weight, blood pressure, blood oxygen, listen to the heart and lungs, and observe the patients. Patients control the devices and have proven to be extraordinarily adept at learning and spotting complications. The result? Readmissions to the ER and the hospitals have dropped dramatically. These audio-visual devices, which carry data over phone lines, could installed in the homes of millions of people with heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease, the #1 and #4 causes of death in America, and leading causes of hospitalization. Experience has shown patients equipped with these devices next to their bedside become extremely adept at recognizing those signs and symptoms that lead to hospitalization.

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