Tag Archives: patient engagement

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February 2019

Bob Kocher and Bryan Roberts, health care investors and partners at the venture capital firm Venrock, predict “Telemedicine Takes Off,” in their Fortune article, “10 Health Care Predictions for 2019 From a Pair of Venture Gurus” (December 10, 2018).  They note that payers are finally realizing it’s better to “embrace and encourage telemedicine usage as opposed to burying it in their unengaging member portals and clunky mobile apps.”    

The time for telemedicine is now!   Patients, as consumers, are demanding this.  It’s been well established that patients of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are using mobile technology in their lives – from all the conveniences of retail or travel, to simply sharing photos and stories with family and friends.  According to a recent global survey by Cisco, 74 percent of patients prioritize access to health care services over in-person interactions with health care providers, and 70 percent said they were comfortable communicating with providers via text, email, or video, in lieu of an in-office visit.

Yet some clinicians still ask or protest: “My elderly or low income patients won’t use mobile health technology.” Smartphone adoption continues to grow rapidly in the US market:  Pew Research in 2018 reports 77% of Americans own a smartphone vs. just 35% in 2011, and 53% own a mobile tablet device (e.g., iPad or Android). 

In our experience, patients over age 65 using our Trusted Patient Coach mobile solution on their smartphones or mobile tablets are just as, if not more compliant than other demographic groups.

Some providers protest, “They can use our electronic medical record (EMR) portal.”  But those are also clunky to use.  Many are web based or supported by clunky mobile apps and are used for episodic tasks such as viewing diagnostic test results, refilling a prescription, or scheduling an appointment.  Sara Heath, in Patient Data Access News, reports that even among patients registering to use EMR portals (and many patients do not), their utilization is only 20-35% of the time. 

Clinical evidence shows that patients who track themselves do a better job of managing their health and have better clinical outcomes – e.g., managing a chronic condition or recovering after surgery.

At Health Helm we focus on Patient Reported Outcomes and self-tracking, providing clinical teams and their patients with a secure, reliable way to track and report meaningful information about their progress on a daily or routine basis . Clinicians know that when communications with patients are better, they can identify complications or problems earlier and then intervene to address them earlier. 

Kocher and Roberts note that even medicare is adding codes to reimburse telemedicine. Other insurers are, also – recognizing that meaningful, sustained connection using telehealth results in better outcomes at lower costs, with a better patient experience.  Bottom line:  Kocher and Roberts, “Expect telemedicine usage to more than double in 2019, while making substantive inroads beyond flu and cold into areas such as chronic disease management.” 

Sources:


https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20150723.049490/full/

https://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1148539

Heath, Sara, “Patient Access to Health Data, Patient Portal use Increases.” Patient Data Access News, Patient Engagement HIT, October 12, 2017.

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Patient Engagement Leads to Successful Outcomes

One clear way to dramatically improve health outcomes is to avoid unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits and hospital readmissions.  Beyond the HHS penalties, delivering the right care to the right patients makes for good sense and good healthcare.

Clinicians indicate that following surgery or a procedure, the initial five to seven days is the critical period during which most complications occur.  Difficulties or confusion during these transitions in care, as well as poor or non-existent follow-up communication can exacerbate the risks of avoidable clinical complications. 

Strong communication between clinicians and their patients is an essential prerequisite to attaining the best possible health care outcomes.  We recognize this deep truth and seek to facilitate exactly this type of clinician/patient communication.

In order to be most effective, such communication must be systematic, frequent and immediate. For this reason, Trusted Patient Coach (TPC) delivers detailed, customizable questionnaires to patients up to multiple times per day. These allow patients to self-report and communicate changes in symptoms and progress along care plans with immediacy, thus maximizing the accuracy of the collected data. In addition, this immediacy allows clinicians to see and take decisive action on adverse developments well before they otherwise could.  Thus, this strong communication forms the bedrock for actionable and timely clinical intervention that can reduce inefficient resource utilization such as unnecessary ED visits, which frequently lead to avoidable hospital readmissions.

Patient – Clinician Connection Reinforces Successful Patient Outcomes

But strong communication can be just a start. Strong communication can grow into a strong connection. And this connection can strengthen care outcomes even further.

We see overabundant evidence of these connections throughout the messages exchanged between TPC-using patients and their clinicians. Patients are thrilled to get their questions answered and their worries addressed. They react by deepening their rapport with their doctors and nurses, forming a higher level of engagement that is shown to produce better health outcomes (Hibbard, Greene, 2013). Patients forming these connections are among the most enthusiastic users of TPC.

In a recent TPC study involving 75 post-surgical patients, clinicians reported actively avoiding medically unnecessary ED and office visits for 11 of those patients.

One such patient, N.L., writes to his doctor,

“Thank you for messaging with me. I feel better knowing I’m on the right track and to expect good and bad days.”

Another, J.B., writes,

“Thank you for your support and advice. It’s nice to have doctors that are so involved.”

Patients N.L. and J.B. were both spared unnecessary ED visits after establishing a connection with their doctors through Health Helm’s Trusted Patient Coach mobile app.

Clinician/patient connection, driven by strong and immediate communication, can lead to reduced readmissions and to outstanding medical care.

 

Hibbard, J.H., Green, J.  (2013). What The Evidence Shows About Patient Activation: Better Health Outcomes And Care Experiences; Fewer Data on Costs.  Health Affairs, 32(2), 207-214.