As mobile devices increase their penetrance in the general US population, their costs to own are rapidly decreasing, and they are starting to be used by a more broad demographic in our society.  We can now start to ask whether these devices are cost effective when it comes to managing chronic disease.

Carla Smith, executive VP of Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) once said that the traditional definition of ROI as used in other industries isn’t necessarily a good fit for the healthcare industry; successfully demonstrating ROI in health care involves more than simply looking at how much money is saved or earned.

A pilot project announced recently by Microsoft, TracFone and Health Choice Network proposes to test the theory that smartphones can lower costs and manage chronic conditions like diabetes with better health outcomes.

The study will provide a Nokia Lumia 520 handset to 100 Medicaid diabetic patients from several Health Choice Network (HCN) community health centers in the Miami area. The base platform includes all the Microsoft software necessary for these patients to update their personal health record (HealthVault), communicate securely with the care team (Office 365) and allow for the remote management of the device in the event that it’s lost or stolen. TracFone will provide the pre-paid services of their cellular network.

This study is interesting because of the following:

1) Focus on chronic disease. We know the disease burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes is tremendous, and a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources are given towards diseases affected by diabetes (heart disease, strokes, etc).

2) Medicaid focus. Diabetes disproportionately affects low income populations, and if this study is able to show that low income populations can use mobile resources to improve management of their chronic disease, it would make it significantly easier for the department of health and human services to consider reimbursing physicians for promoting mobile management of chronic diseases.