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Geisinger Builds an mHealth Platform for Asthma Care Management

The Pennsylvania health system and pharma giant AstraZeneca have partnered to build an mHealth platform that enables asthma patients and their care providers to monitor health at home and improve care management and coordination.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System has partnered with pharma giant AstraZeneca to develop an mHealth platform to improve care management and coordination for people with asthma.

The connected health suite includes an mHealth app and the Provider Asthma Management Assistant digital health platform, which integrates patient-entered data into Geisinger’s electronic health record to give care providers, including asthma educators, respiratory therapists and specialists, a better view of the patient’s overall health in between doctor’s visits.

Geisinger officials say the mHealth platform could be a model for remote patient monitoring programs covering other chronic conditions.

"Patients sometimes do a lot worse with their asthma than we know based on a three-, six-, or nine-month periodic office visit," Paul Simonelli, MD, PhD, chair of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Geisinger, said in a press release. "This new suite of products could easily be adapted to any long-term chronic respiratory illness that needs monitoring, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)."

During the last decade, the number of asthma cases increased by 20 percent each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and there’s no reason to doubt that those numbers are continuing to grow. And with that increase comes an increase in costs to care for people with asthma, estimated to be around $56 billion annually.

The partnership with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish biopharmaceutical company developing treatments for a large number of conditions, gives Geisinger a strong platform for coordinating and managing care for patients with asthma. Combining mHealth devices in the home with the patient’s EHR data, care providers can identify trends and factors that trigger asthma attacks and create or modify a care plan to reduce those health issues and improve outcomes.

In addition, the app allows patients to check weather forecasts, identify and track symptoms and asthma triggers, set up medication reminders and collaborate with care providers at any time.

"Asthma symptoms can be unpredictable and breathing issues don't always occur in the doctor's office – a tool to help patients and physicians stay connected and share information in real-time is what connected health is all about," Tosh Butt, AstraZeneca’s Vice President of Respiratory services, said in the press release. "AstraZeneca's partnership with Geisinger is focused on how we can arm patients and physicians with digital tools with the intention of speeding diagnosis and treatment decisions."

Faced with an increase in patients with chronic conditions and a desire to keep them out of the hospital, health systems are turning to connected care platforms to manage these populations at home. The concept touches on a number of popular or developing mHealth and telehealth strategies, including RPM, population health, patient engagement and digital therapeutics.

As of 2012, about half of the nation’s adults – 117 million people – have at least one chronic condition, with one in four having more than one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their care consumes roughly 86 percent of the nation’s $2.6 trillion annual healthcare bill, a figure that many healthcare experts feel can be reduced through better care management and coordination.

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