Can Mobile Devices Pay for Themselves?

11-10-2012 2-46-53 PM
Alan Portela and Paul Peabody

A panel of vendors and healthcare organization executives expressed optimism that mobile devices such as iPads and portable medical devices could – over time – be shown to pay for their cost.

The panel, held at the IHT2 Conference in Los Angeles on November 7, included Alan Portela, chief executive officer, AirStrip Technologies; Sajid Ahmed, director, Health and IT Innovations, LA Care Health Plan; and Paul Peabody, chief information officer, Palomar Health (San Diego).

Airstrip CEO Portela said that for mobile devices to show a positive ROI, the healthcare organization needed to study “one specific program.” He pointed to a study on mobile devices used by patients with congestive heart failure. The CHF patients were sent home with “sensors and an iPad.” A study showed a significant decrease in hospital readmission.

Peabody said his organization has just begun to deploy mobile devices and, “we’re not going to have a firm dollar figure (on ROI) for two or three years.”

He added that mobile devices will show a positive ROI only if they are deployed to address a specific, actionable problem. “You can put a good (technology) system on top of a bad process and it will only get bad faster.”

The panel moderator, Dan Munro, a contributing editor at Forbes, said he had seen a study conducted at one hospital that gave its staff physicians iPads. That study showed the hospital had a positive ROI within nine days.

LA Care’s Ahmed expressed caution. He said his organization, which serves a large number of Medicaid patients, had considered a program to give certain patients smart phones with apps they could use to monitor their health status.

“Initially, it looked like a great idea. Theoretically, we could get a positive ROI within 30 days. But when we checked with the California Department of Health Services, they were reluctant to authorize it. First of all, they were concerned the patients wouldn’t use the devices properly (for monitoring). They were also worried that some patients would lose the phones and the health care data stored on them,” Ahmed said.

James Harris is president of, a healthcare technology marketing agency.

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