Hospital medicine is a tricky business and I have learned one of its most counter-intuitive lessons early in my training – our goal is ultimately to keep people as far away from us as possible.

And as the the baby-boomer generation enters its golden years, how we meet this challenge will be one the most important metrics for the effectiveness of our healthcare system.

Millions of tech-savvy Americans will soon demand services that enable them to live independently with chronic illnesses.

And a new joint venture between Intel and General Electric, the latter of which is already a major healthcare tech player, seeks to provide precisely these services.

We’ve talked previously about Medtronic’s CareLink system which allows patient’s with implanted cardiac devices to be remotely monitored for dangerous arrhythmia’s by their physicians. Medtronic also has a similar system with proven clinical benefit for real-time blood glucose monitoring for diabetic patients.

It appears that what the GE/Intel venture seeks to do is pursue services that will enable independent living for people with chronic conditions. Perhaps that includes apps like iFall, which uses a standard mobile device to monitor at-risk patients for falls at home. Innovations in devices that assist in activities of daily living, pain management.

The companies, which struck an alliance in 2009, have been working on technologies to help elderly patients and those with chronic diseases. A key focus has been managing medical conditions from home, reducing the need for costly stays in hospitals and assisted-living facilities.

Unfortunately, insurance reimbursement could potentially be a limiting factor to these home health services:

One major hurdle facing GE and Intel in the U.S. is that Medicare and private insurers don’t currently offer reimbursement for home health-monitoring systems.

“Independent streams of revenue we think will fund this market as it grows,” said Mr. Ishrak. He said consumers will pay for the services and ask health-care insurers and governments to pay as well.

One of the early lessons of my medical training was that patients have lives beyond the walls of the hospital and my job is to help them get back to those lives. So lets hope that more players enter this market and begin to provide (proven) services that improve the quality of life of people managing chronic illness.

Source: Wall Street Journal