August 4, 2009

High-tech called key to healthcare savings

Dozens of U.S. entrepreneurs see new technologies as a way of transforming healthcare -- and saving money at the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Triage Wireless Inc. of San Diego is testing a wearable device for wirelessly measuring vital signs in hospital rooms, the newspaper says.

Proteus Biomedical Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., for instance, is testing a miniature digestible chip that attaches to conventional medicine and sends a signal confirming if patients are taking their prescribed pills.

Corventis Inc. of San Jose, Calif., is developing a Band-Aid-style sensor that measures respiration, fluid status and physical movements for patients on the go.

Intel Corp. of Santa Clara., Calif., is studying a mat with sensors called a magic carpet to track how senior citizens move at home in the hope of preventing falls, a major cause of accidental deaths and a big contributor to health costs.

Wireless applications have the potential to change every one of these areas, Scripps Research Institute cardiologist and genomics Professor Eric Topol tells the newspaper.

But critics claim technology-related cost savings often don't pan out. And if reimbursements from Medicare or private insurers don't cover the cost of high-tech approaches, doctors and hospitals won't want to deploy them, they say.

Second-quarter venture investments in healthcare companies totaled $2.23 billion, outpacing the $1.88 billion pumped into tech companies, research firm VentureSource said.

This was the first time healthcare investing exceeded tech investing, VentureSource said.