West policy center to promote cost-saving healthcare technologies

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Venture capitalists are venturing into the health policy business. Gary and Mary West, the California billionaires who started the West Wireless Health Institute and the West Health Investment Fund, launched the West Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C., this week.

According to the Washington Post, "the new center will conduct research on better [healthcare] reimbursement models, improved price transparency and 'smart technology'--a field that includes mobile health monitors and other innovations."

Don Casey, chairman of the West Health Policy Center, told the Post that one of the organization's goals is to promote mobile health technology as a money saver. He said that mobile applications could help monitor vital signs of patients with chronic diseases and feed the data remotely to doctors' offices.

Casey acknowledged that a major obstacle to mHealth so far has been insurers' reluctance to pay for it. He indicated that the policy center would try to show the companies how it could save them money.

Meanwhile, the policy center announced it had struck a deal with Humedica to collaborate on research to improve the cost-effectiveness of care. Humedica, a Boston-based clinical analytics company, recently announced a new "predictive analytic model" that, the firm claims, can help predict which patients will be hospitalized for congestive heart failure. The company uses data pulled from electronic health records as the basis for its analysis.

Through the collaboration with Humedica, researchers at the West Health Policy Center will have access to Humedica's data and analytics platform. The purpose of their research is to identify healthcare cost drivers that innovative, low-cost technologies might be able to affect. The institute will look at many conditions other than heart failure.

The policy center is organizing a meeting between about 200 entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. The investors see healthcare technology as a potentially profitable field, Casey said, because of recent changes in government regulations.

The Wests started the West Health Investment Fund in October with $100 million. The money is intended to support cutting edge technologies that promise to reduce health costs. West Wireless Health Institute, a nonprofit medical research foundation, was established in 2009.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post article
- check out the press release on the West-Humedica deal

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