Scripps launches pioneering mobile study

It's 'one of the first robust, cross-industry studies using multiple mobile medical sensors' to gauge wireless technology's potential, says Eric Topo
By Eric Wicklund
10:08 AM

For now at least, the center of the mHealth universe appears to be sunny San Diego.

Scripps Health has launched Wired for Health, a large-scale study designed to explore the intersection of wireless technologies, healthcare and social networks. This comes roughly one week after neighboring Palomar Health and Qualcomm Life launched Glassomics to explore the mHealth potential of Google Glass.

[See also: Scripps Translational Science Institute and Scripps Health Get $3.75M Grant from Qualcomm Foundation to Boost Digital Medicine]

“We are excited to embark on one of the first robust, cross-industry studies using multiple mobile medical sensors to determine whether we can lower healthcare costs and resource consumption through wireless health technology,” said Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) and chief academic officer of the four-hospital Scripps Health system, in a press release.

Along with Scripps Health and STSI, a National Institutes of Health-supported consortium led by Scripps Health and including The Scripps Research Institute and several scientific partners, the Wired for Health project will include Qualcomm Life, HealthComp and Accenture.

“Scripps Health is leading the effort to translate the latest medical technologies into high-quality, cost-effective treatments,” said Chris Van Gorder, the system's president and CEO, in the press release. “Through this study, we will be able to demonstrate where these technologies are providing the most economic value to the health care system and where there is room for improvement.”

According to officials, STSI has already begun recruiting an estimated 200 people with common chronic conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias) who have generated large healthcare bills over the past year. The candidates come from Scripps Health's 13,500-member employee base and are identified by HealthComp, a third-party healthcare service administrator.

[See also: Topol talks healthcare's digital future]

Officials said half of the participants will be given a mobile device – the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, AliveCor Heart Monitor or iBGStar Blood Glucose Meter – to monitor their conditions. All data and health sessions will be handled through Qualcomm Life's HealthyCircles Care Orchestration Engine, which HealthComp will use to push "appropriate and relevant interventions."

Both those with wireless devices and those without will be enrolled in HealthComp's disease management program, which includes chronic disease education.

“The data will enable us to assess whether patients who actively track their health conditions through mobile devices and interact with their healthcare team through a web portal will have more success managing their health conditions and, as a result, spend fewer health care dollars,” said Cinnamon Bloss, PhD, director of social sciences and bioethics at STSI, who will lead researchers in evaluating the participants' frequency, purpose and cost of health interventions.

Qualcomm Life is also heavily involved in the Glassomics incubator, which it launched last month with Palomar Health Chief Innovation Officer Orlando Portale. The project will be housed in Palomar Medical Center, a brand-new "hospital of the future" in west Escondido.

In addition, Qualcomm, through its Qualcomm Wireless Reach initiative, is participating in an collaborative involving mHealth technologies developed by Asthmapolis and Zephyr. The telecom giant is partnering with San Diego-based Rady Children's Hospital to develop a 3G-enabled kit for monitoring the activities of children with asthma.

The project, funded by Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative, will equip 50 children between the ages of 7 and 17 with a remote monitoring kit that includes two Asthmapolis sensors that snap onto inhaled medications to track use; a Zephyr BioPatch device to track heart rate, respiratory rate and activity; and a Qualcomm Life 2net Hub, which will enable device connectivity at home through Bluetooth technology.

The patients and their families will receive training on the devices, have online access to the data through Asthmapolis' mobile apps and patient dashboard, and receive personalized feedback and education based on the patient's physician-provided action plan. Clinicians, meanwhile, will be able to view the data through the ZephyrLIFE Home portal.