Chronic heart patients in the Pacific Northwest will soon get a taste of Internet-assisted medicine.
Regence Bluecross Blueshield of Oregon, the region's largest managed care company, said today it will provide remote vital sign monitoring through Qmed and LifeMasters to its 165,000 PPO members and 220,000 HMO members.
Many high-profile Internet medical ventures, such as Healtheon/WebMD, are focusing on the health industry's back-office problems. Others, such as Drkoop.com, provide consumers with health information on Web sites.
By contrast, today's deal with Qmed and LifeMasters is an example of how information technology and the Internet can be put to use in frontline medical treatment, according Qmed's chief executive Michael Cox.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and among the costliest conditions to treat, according to The American Heart Association, which estimates that more than 12 million people have some form of the disease.
QMed uses medical information technology in conjunction with human technicians, who can remotely monitor patients with sensors and a modem.
LifeMasters uses Internet and telephone-based monitoring as well as individualized clinical feedback. Nurses regularly contact participants to discuss their health status, provide coaching and notify physicians whenever medical intervention is required.
Christobel Selecky, CEO of LifeMasters, said the partnership could significantly reduce Regence's costs of caring for chronic heart patients while improving the quality of patient care.
"With all the turmoil surrounding managed care, I think it's very exciting that we have a mechanism to keep costs down, because the outcome is dramatically reduced hospitalization and emergency visits," Selecky said.