Mediaplanet: How has the Affordable Care Act altered this industry?

Donato Tramuto: More than 31 million people are expected to be added to the U.S. healthcare system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Healthcare reform requires unprecedented communication and collaboration across the continuum of patient care, through what we call an “Integrative IQ” approach.  Everyone – the patient, caregivers in the home, healthcare professionals, pharmacists and insurance companies – now must collaborate and communicate much more effectively with each other to achieve better outcomes and lower healthcare costs.

MP: Would you advise patients to speak with their doctors about their options for utilizing telehealth capabilities?

"Telehealth tools also bring up-to-date medical information to clinicians via mobile apps and devices in the developing world to help save lives."

DT: Absolutely. Telehealth is no longer just remote monitoring for the chronically ill.  For consumers, telehealth tools and smartphone apps can help them to maintain a healthier lifestyle. For physicians, only 5 percent are satisfied with medical apps. New mobile apps allow clinicians one-tap access to their favorite medical and drug reference tools right at the point of care, so they can more quickly diagnose, treat and communicate information about drugs to patients.

MP: How can this technology help foster better communication between doctors and patients?

DT: Tablets are being used increasingly by physicians in the U.S. to access clinical healthcare references and calculators through apps, manage Electronic Health Records and perform electronic consultations with patients.  Telehealth tools also bring up-to-date medical information to clinicians via mobile apps and devices in the developing world to help save lives. These tools provide handheld devices equipped with specialized reference and clinical decision support tools to improve healthcare in underserved areas of Uganda, Kenya, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and communities in rural Louisiana affected by the Gulf oil spill.

MP: Can telehealth solutions increase the likelihood of patients adhering to medication plans?

DT: Telehealth tools such as Physicians Interactive’s eCoupon can be sent electronically to the pharmacy and printed for the patient right at the point of care. Patients can download free or inexpensive apps such as MedCoach Medication Reminder or MedHelper to prompt them to improve adherence. Apps also allow multiple users, including caregivers in the home, to help ensure adherence.

MP: What kind of economic ramifications can occur as a result of implementing this type of technology?

DT: Avoidable hospital admissions, outpatient treatments, pharmaceutical prescriptions and emergency room visits for patients can be significantly reduced through an Integrative IQ approach of incorporating telehealth tools. The National Health Expenditure Accounts for the U.S. in 2011 were approximately $2.7 trillion – 17.9 percent of GDP. An IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics study estimates total avoidable U.S. healthcare costs attributable to improper use of medication and management alone add up to $200 billion each year – 8 percent of total national healthcare costs.

Patient adherence to therapy is also a high priority issue for pharmaceutical companies.  According to CapGemini, when non-adherent patients skip prescribed medications, pharmaceutical companies fail to earn an estimated $188 billion dollars annually in the United States, and $564 billion worldwide.