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Has mobile health monitoring hit a wall?

The number of technical tools available to help patients live healthy lifestyles or control chronic health conditions has grown considerably during the past few years. But the percentage of patients who use some form of technology, such as mobile apps, to track health indicators has remained virtually unchanged for three years. The Pew Internet & American Life Project published a report Jan. 28 that found 69% of U.S. adults track at least one health indicator such as diet, exercise or weight. The survey of 3,014 adults conducted between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 2012, found that 49% monitor their progress in their heads, 34% track the information on paper, and 21% utilize some form of technology, including mobile apps, which 7% use. The results mirror findings from a Pew survey in 2010. “As a tech industry thought leader, I’m disappointed when I see a survey like that,” said Bill Crounse, MD, senior director of worldwide health at Microsoft Corp. “But as somebody who has served ...

Health plans add financial motivation to wellness programs

As the insurance industry continues to expand wellness programs, it is taking on care-giving roles that health plans believe are meant to complement and not compete with doctors’ efforts. “As a health plan, we don’t want to insert ourselves in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship,” said Cigna spokesman Joe Mondy. “Instead, our role is to support both the doctor and patient with the great health care challenge of the 21st century — helping individuals change unhealthy behaviors and make health a fun and interesting part of everyday life.” Cigna recently developed a wellness info-graphic website that helps members understand what health system reform means to them with a personalized survey. The survey asks members for general demographic and insurance information before telling them how heath reform will affect them specifically. Consultants say they understand doctors’ skepticism, given ongoing battles over coverage, about health plans’ sincerity in ...

Harm of hospital “July effect” further cast into doubt

The country is deep in winter, but attention again is returning to that summertime phenomenon dubbed “the July effect.” That’s the name given to a supposed spike in medical mistakes and poor patient outcomes at teaching hospitals during the seventh month of the year, when newly minted MDs start providing care. Numerous studies have reached conflicting conclusions about the extent of the July effect and whether it even exists. A massive study of spinal surgery outcomes published Jan. 29 online further complicates the picture, finding that patients going under the knife at teaching hospitals in July largely fare just as well as their counterparts during the rest of the year but do slightly worse on a couple of metrics. Researchers examined nearly 1 million spinal procedures between 2001 and 2008, and found that patients who underwent surgery in July had similar rates of in-hospital mortality, adverse reactions to implanted devices and wounds reopening post-operatively. Howeve ...