By Henry Ehrlich
It is a rare day when I have anything nice to say about a health insurance company, but I have to tip my hat to Amerigroup Florida for offering Asthmapolis’ mobile health device and service to members with asthma. Asthmapolis is a sensor that sits atop (most) inhalers used by patients who have asthma or COPD and was the first such device we have featured here that harnesses new wireless technology to improve asthma treatment compliance, along with AsthmaSense™ and the nanotech “breathalyzer” for asthmatic inflammation developed at the State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook.
Health insurance companies often seem to function like casinos that are happy to take our “bets” and then find reasons not to pay off when patients get too sick. In the case of Asthmapolis, they are encouraging patients to collaborate in the most cost-efficient asthma care there is—preventing exacerbations. This kind of information is so cheap it is a natural for insurance companies. As the CEO of the company that makes AsthmaSense™ wrote here, the technology is cheaper to install and operate than a single spirometry.
I have been following the use of gadgetry to change the way we live our lives for many years since I worked as a speechwriter for a banking organization that used to get punished in its share price in part for investing in novel uses of information technology. In particular I remember spending time circa 1990 with one of the in-house visionaries who showed me a prototype banking phone, which was essentially an old push-button cradle-handset phone with a small computer keyboard grafted onto it. It had a certain ugly charm as I recall—sort of like the Edsel, a car designed by combining separate elements favored in focus groups and then slapped together.
More important was what he said about consumer behavior. “Americans like single-purpose appliances. They like separate washers and driers, not washer-driers. They want telephones and computers to each have a dedicated use.” Don’t forget, this was in the days before cell phones, even ones that were as big as tennis shoes, let alone the sleek little items we carry now. He also explained that acceptance of new technology was a generational thing. In those days, older retail bank customers still insisted on waiting a teller line to using an automatic teller machine (ATM), something that would change as time-challenged 20- and 30-somethings morphed into crotchety older people (like yours truly). This was hastened by moving the bank from downtown to convenience stores, gas stations, and supermarkets in the form of ATMs. Access to cash became incidental to other aspects of life and no longer warranted a dedicated visit to a bricks-and-mortar bank.
Now, of course, behavior has changed to the point where we are all-too-eager to use a single appliance for multiple purposes. We can carry the bank in our pockets, along with our friends, family, library, and home-entertainment system. I’m happy to see that health insurers have seen fit to include the allergist, too.