"Managed Care Update"

Cell Phones to be Used to Report Patient Self-Test Results

CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland ready to launch diabetes management service

HOW ABOUT USING A CELL PHONE to monitor patient in-home laboratory test results? That’s about to happen with a new program introduced by CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland.

CareFirst will test whether monitoring devices in cell phones can help patients with diabetes manage their blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. CareFirst is working with WellDoc Communications of Baltimore, Maryland, to use WellDoc’s web- and cell phone-based diabetes management system, which is designed to help patients optimize their diabetes management.

CareFirst will use the cell phone/ WellDoc system in a 12-month clinical trial involving 260 patients with Type 2 diabetes. The primary goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of this system to help reduce patients’ blood glucose levels (HbA1c). In an initial study, patients who used the WellDoc system experienced a two-point drop on their average HbA1c level within 90 days of starting the program.

The cell phone-based diabetes management software allows patients to provide data to healthcare professionals in a secure fashion. Also, physicians and other healthcare providers can offer real-time feedback to patients about how to manage their conditions.

“We are excited to provide our members with the ability to better manage their diabetes by utilizing a device they use everyday, their cell phones,” said Jon Shematek, M.D., CareFirst’s Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. “Our focus is two-fold. First, it is to help patients and providers optimize diabetes management; and second, it’s to reduce the costs associated with diabetes care.”

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, under the direction of Charlene Quinn, Ph.D., R.N., will conduct the clinical trial. Quinn is the principal investigator and an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.

WellDoc claims that its WellDoc system can help improve patient outcomes by reducing a patient’s risks of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and other complications. Those improved patient outcomes, in turn, can reduce the cost of care.

Doing Lab Tests At Home

Using cell phones to transmit clinical data is an established technology. What is new is the attempt to use cell phones to aid large numbers of patients with chronic disease do a better job of managing their health. This poses an interesting question for pathologists and lab managers. Will the combination of in-home diagnostic testing and cell phone reporting of results to caregivers eventually encourage certain lab tests now performed in clinical laboratories to shift to patient self-test settings?

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