MedCity morning read, Friday, April 3

Intel logo from IntelGeneral Electric logo from GEGeneral Electric and Intel are teaming up on a $250 million partnership to sell high-tech medical devices that monitor the health of senior citizens in their homes to head off trips to the hospital, according to Forbes.

The idea is to watch seniors who have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, for compliance to medical regimens and to intervene if measurements, say blood sugar readings, get out of whack.

It’s also to monitor seniors who have progressive diseases like heart failure to watch for subtle changes in breathing and heart rates that signal a worsening of the disease, enabling interventions that help patients avoid the hospital or minimize their stays.

Both companies will invest $250 million over the next five years for research and development of home monitoring technology, VentureBeat said. GE has a small business in home health products already. But the idea is to marry information technology, low-cost devices and services that can drive health care costs down.

The home monitoring market is estimated at $3 billion a year, Forbes said. GE and Intel hope to join that market by creating simple, touch-screen devices that seniors can use to communicate their vital signs with disease managers over the Internet. Today, home health monitoring is done mostly by nurses and other disease managers who regularly check in with patients on the phone.

Such partnerships also are aimed at controlling runaway costs in the U.S. health care system, though there is little clinical trial data that says technology can keep people out of the hospital or save money.

In November, the Cleveland Clinic began a test with Microsoft HealthVault to monitor in their homes some patients who have diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure. The Clinic and Microsoft provided patients with digital blood pressure and heart rate monitors, as well as blood sugar meters.

The monitors and meters can be plugged into computers, which upload information into HealthVault — the online service that enables users to collect, organize and share their health information.

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