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September 18, 2015

Technology Integration Can Improve Medicaid For Beneficiaries

Matthews: High Penetration of Mobile Phones Among Medicaid Population; Arizona mHealth Measure Creates Digital Pathway for Care
  Institute for Policy Innovation

DALLAS - As the House Energy and Commerce Committee meets today to discuss improving Medicaid, they should consider how states can integrate mobile phones and other existing technologies to increase access to care, lower costs and improve health care quality for Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Since Medicaid’s low-income enrollees have a high penetration of mobile phones, technology integration may actually achieve the goals envisioned by the Affordable Care Act,” said Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) resident scholar Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., author of “Reforming Medicaid with Technology,” who points to an Arizona measure to reform Medicaid for the 21st century. 

“Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has taken a step in the direction of modernizing Medicaid,” said Matthews. “His proposal includes integrating mobile apps to find doctors or clinics, make appointments and manage chronic illnesses and medications.”

Medicaid populations face many challenges when it comes to health care access, such as job constraints, rural environments lacking specialists, and a low Medicaid reimbursement rate for providers, said Matthews. 

“Additionally, Medicaid patients have a higher incidence of chronic medical conditions, which put them at greater risk of high-cost medical episodes,” said Matthews. “To help the Medicaid population access health care, their mobile phones will need to become their ‘medical home.’” 

Integrating health IT could create digital pathways for care, writes Matthews, such as:

  • Wireless monitoring of conditions to promote continuation of care;
  • Virtual doctors’ appointments to overcome job constraints and travel challenges;
  • Apps to monitor pharmaceutical needs, dosage and utilization;
  • Mobile phone alerts and text messages to help with medical regimen compliance;
  • Chronic care monitoring and management;
  • mHealth services to encourage a healthy lifestyle;
  • Home monitoring and long term care for the disabled;
  • Services to enable telehealth and remote access to physicians and specialists; and
  • Creation of portable, electronic personal health records.

“The goal of health care reform was to increase access to care, lower costs and improve quality,” said Matthews. “Integrating technology into Medicaid coverage could play a leading role in that effort.” 
 

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D.  is resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), an independent, nonprofit public policy organization based in Dallas. He is available for interview by contacting Erin Humiston at (972) 874-5139, or erin@ipi.org.

 

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