Incoming Healthcare Bonanza for Mobile Tech Companies?

With one in four hospitals and health systems lacking key services to reach patients remotely in an era of population health that requires them to do just that, medical companies are salivating at a booming potential market.

A survey released this week at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS,convention in Chicago shows "nearly one-quarter" of hospital and health systems aren't using mobile health technologies to manage patient populations.

HIMSS polled health information-technology executives at more than 330 major hospitals and health systems, and found these medical care providers are generally lacking in the IT services needed to engage patients. That is good news for investors in health IT and mobile health technology companies pushing aggressively into the so-called "mHealth" space.

The need to engage patients is critical as government and private health insurers shift payments to these hospitals and health systems away from fee-for-service medicine to value-based care that ties reimbursement to health outcomes and related quality metrics. Half of all dollars paid by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will shift away from fee-for-service by 2018, the Obama administration said earlier this year.

HIMSS' data indicates medical care providers have much work left to do.

Just 49.2% of health system respondents said they were engaging patients via telemedicine. Meanwhile, just 38% were engaging patients via population health management; 29% were engaging patients with remote coaching and education; and only 21% were are using "real time" remote patient monitoring.

While there numbers are not so flattering for hospitals and health system IT departments, they are a potential boon for companies coaxing medical care providers into mobile technology.

Athenahealth, McKesson, Oracle, and myriad others are promoting their population health management systems and mobile health technologies. Google and others have also stepped up investments in health data and certain health IT ventures.

They are part of the parade of companies trying to make money in health IT and mobile health technologies.

"Healthcare providers are beginning to look beyond the electronic health record as they transition to a new reimbursement model focused on value, rather than volume," said McKesson'schief medical officer, Dr. Jonathan Niloff. "Healthcare providers are looking to invest in technologies that will enable them to more proactively and intelligently care for their patient populations."

It's only the beginning.

"As we push the boundaries of population health and enable broader connectivity in care, health care organizations will cross the threshold from business intelligence to true personalized medicine," said Carla Smith, HIMSS executive vice president of HIMSS.

Another good sign for health IT and mobile health companies and their investors is that hospitals plan to increase their IT spending. A 2014 HIMSS study showed U.S. hospitals spend 3.3% of their operating budgets on IT, but that two-thirds of respondents indicated they would increase their budgets this year.

"Population health management solutions will allow providers to focus less on sick care and more so on a holistic, data-driven approach to patient-centered care," McKesson's Niloff said.

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Bruce Japsen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Athenahealth, Google (A shares), and McKesson. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (A shares) and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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