How patient engagement technology can deliver care outside hospitals
As providers shift to more patient-centric care models, many are adopting innovative solutions to extend patient engagement and improve health outcomes, as well as reduce healthcare costs in a scalable and meaningful way.
In an ideal world, most people would prefer to have someone personally help them navigate the healthcare system and engage more effectively in their care. But the changing dynamic and reimbursement model of the healthcare system has made it cost-prohibitive to have such one-on-one conversations.
The question becomes “how do you look at technology as a vehicle to some extent mimic that patient-provider relationship in a way that creates this emotional connection and empowers the patient with the information they need to be active participants in their care,” says Devin Gross, CEO of Emmi Solutions. “If you do that, it’s going to reduce the overall costs the healthcare system and improve the quality and the satisfaction of both the provider and the patient.”
In an effort to improve care for the 1 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, the AMGA Foundation recently launched a three-year patient outreach campaign promoting tools like Novo Nordisk’s Cornerstones4Care. “These resources augment what physicians, diabetes educators, and patients are already doing, but they offer round-the-clock access, extensive drill-down for people who want more detail, and useful tracking tools,” says John Cuddeback, chief medical informatics officer at the American Medical Group Association.
Chicago-based Emmi combines web-based tools, mobile devices, phone calls, and text messaging to develop solutions that engage patients and doctors in a longitudinal conversation using voice image text. The system interfaces with electronic health records (EHRs) from both an ordering standpoint and a patient portal standpoint, and is integrated with the provider’s workflow. In addition, the company has a research and analytics group that works with clients to measure the impact of the interventions they’re taking.
To date, Emmi has engaged close to 30 million people and more than 11 million last year, says Gross. The solution also increases operational efficiency he adds, pointing to a study at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Patients who were engaged regarding a colorectal screening had less anxiety about the procedure, resulting in less sedation, quicker recovery and a five-minute uptick in room turnover.
Centura Health Physician Group in Centennial, CO, use two of Emmi’s products: an automated call to remind patients to get preventative screenings and an online health information education module to engage patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, blood sugar management, and hypertension.
For example, patients with hypertension got information about diet and exercise changes they could make to reduce their blood pressure, which carries a high risk of morbidity and death. Of patients who viewed the module last year, 22% saw an improvement in blood pressure control post-module, says Centura Administrator Matthew Vitaska.
Centura has over 200 locations in Colorado and Kansas, so having automated technology to support patient outreach is really beneficial, Vitaska tells Healthcare Dive. “Providers in rural areas can use this technology without a lot of support from us at corporate or from the hospital,” he adds.
Research supports the benefits of connected health tools to boost patient engagement. A recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research looked at self-monitoring patterns of participants in Walgreens’ Balance Rewards for healthy choices (BRhc) program, which tracks things like weight, exercise, sleep and blood pressure. Those who tracked their activities via mobile devices or apps stuck with the program on average 20 weeks, compared with five weeks for individuals who recorded activities manually.
Here are a few of the available patient outreach tools available to providers and patients:
1. Patient IO: Acquired by athenahealth last summer, this Austin-based startup’s web-based patient self-management tools allow providers to connect with patients outside the office or clinic to manage medications, review care instructions or record self-reported data.
2. WelVU: Its video education platform helps providers customize information about treatments, procedures and conditions and connect with patients outside the care facility. The integrated solution combines videos, medical imaging, vital signs, blood results, clinician notes and more, drawing information directly from the patient’s electronic health record.
3. AMC Health: The company offers sophisticated tracking software that’s compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device. The platform uses remote devices — including blood pressure monitors, thermometers, weight scales, glucose meters and digital stethoscopes — to monitor a patient’s health remotely.
4. 22otters: The San Mateo, CA, startup’s platform uses mobile and digital-engagement tools to engage patients with acute and chronic care needs, improve adherence to care plans and reduce costs. The 22otters solution, whose investors include Nuance Communications, features customizable, interactive dialogs and two-way voice-enabled technology with animated graphics to improve the patient experience.
5. Cornerstones4Care: This free, nonbranded service provided by NovoNordisk, helps patients manage their diabetes and keep on track with insulin therapy. The online patient support platform provides educational material and guidance on healthy eating, being active and medications lets users track their blood sugar levels.
6. Care4Today: Similarly, this nonbranded smartphone app from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen subsidiary assists patients in managing their medications and encourages adherence to prescribed dosing schedules.