Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and parent organization Partners HealthCare have a long history in telemedicine and innovation. In 1967, Drs. Ken Bird and Jay Sanders were early pioneers in telemedicine, providing care to patients at Boston’s Logan Airport. The innovation continued in 1995 when Dr. Joe Kvedar founded the Partners Center for Connected Health (CCH). In 2001, Dr. Lee Schwamm launched the Partners TeleStroke Program, through which MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital provide 24/7 TeleStroke care to 30+ community hospitals in New England. The program also enables other US hospitals to deliver TeleStroke services.
In 2011, MGH launched a small startup within the organization’s walls, a hospital-wide initiative called Massachusetts General Hospital TeleHealth. Building on the TeleStroke Program success and in partnership with CCH, the team is focused on achieving the goals of better, accountable, and affordable care for individual patients and populations using technology. The program enables clinicians across multiple specialties to provide high-quality, coordinated care to patients and families using familiar technology; phone, video, text, email, mobile apps and remote monitoring.
MGH has successfully embedded telehealth into patient care in several specialty areas and believes telehealth to be a mode of care delivery to help achieve the triple aim. While 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws mandating telehealth coverage under health insurance plans, Massachusetts is not among them. Given the lack of payer reimbursement, MGH is committed to paying its clinicians to provide telehealth services to patients. However, for MGH and others to expand telehealth services, universal mechanisms for funding healthcare need to align to new models of healthcare delivery.
MGH TELEHEALTH JOURNEY
“In our early days, we were willing to try most anything, and have learned a lot through trial and error and close partnership with clinicians across the institution,” says Sarah Sossong, Director of the Mass General TeleHealth program.
Building off the TeleStroke model, clinicians in Pediatrics, the Burn Center, and the Brain Tumor Program now offer emergency consults to clinicians treating patients in community hospitals. Cardiac ICU attending physicians use a robot to virtually round on patients. Multidisciplinary teams in the MGH Cancer Center conduct virtual case conferences with community hospitals. Specialists in cardiology, dermatology, and neurology provide virtual curbside consults to MGH PCPs to facilitate timely and comprehensive medical advice. “By fostering innovation in multiple areas, our goal is to identify the ‘sweet spots’ for telehealth,” Sossong explains.
The Mass General TeleHealth program continues to implement and expand virtual offerings. “Virtual visits” replace an in-person office visit using familiar technology like video and email on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Since launching in spring 2013, 50+ clinicians across five divisions have conducted more than 1,200 video-enabled virtual visits with existing MGH patients in their homes and other settings.
Mass General’s Department of Psychiatry was one of the first to launch video-enabled virtual visits to patients in the home, with a focus on children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder under the clinical leadership of Dr. Janet Wozniak , associate director of the Bressler Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders at MGH and director of the Child and Adolescent Outpatient Psychiatry service. Dr. Wozniak calls virtual visits an “outstanding addition” to her clinical practice. Following autism pilot success, virtual visits rolled out with patients across 20+ disease conditions including depression, anxiety, and ADHD. “One surprising finding has been that patients who spoke very little during office visits have become more open and able to discuss their symptoms via video,” explains Wozniak.
Mass General’s Department of Neurology has been an early adopter of virtual visits for patients with benign conditions like migraines, and others for which long-distance travel can be challenging (i.e. Lou Gehrig's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscle diseases, movement disorders, seizures).
Dr. Adam Cohen, TeleNeurology and Neurology’s inpatient director, comments that “virtual visits allow us to see our patients from every corner of the state. The ease of virtual visits offers huge benefits to our patients who no longer have to trek into Boston and also for our patients who have difficulty traveling. Virtual visits also make it easier to check-in with our patients, often for just a few minutes.”
Dr. Stephanie Moore in Mass General’s Heart Center has been pioneer of telehealth through her work in remote monitoring for Heart Failure patients with CCH. Remote monitoring has become standard practice for many heart failure patients discharged home. Dr. Moore has incorporated virtual visits into patient care to facilitate patient education by her nursing team and is exploring how virtual visits can work with other virtual tools like remote monitoring.
Dr. Ami Bhatt, a specialist in treating adult congenital heart disease, has found virtual visits enhance patient care. “My patients are busy and often live several hours away. A quick visit to review test results ends up being costly, and a call is not enough to explain results and educate patients to be their own advocates.” With virtual visits, Dr. Bhatt walks patients through their heart images and test results.
At the MGH Burn Center, Dr. Shawn Fagan developed a successful program providing follow-up care to patients at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The program has benefited many patients including Boston Marathon bombing survivors treated at MGH and subsequently treated at Spaulding. With Spaulding’s telemedicine nurse, the patient connects to the TeleBurns team with a virtual visit instead of a trip to MGH.
One patient shared that “staying in contact with Dr. Fagan from the convenience of Spaulding was huge. It was like talking to him face-to-face. He had the equipment to see me, make decisions and treat me.”
MGH TELEHEALTH SUCCESS EVALUTATION
Healthcare providers at MGH and elsewhere have shown that telehealth lowers costs when compared with traditional in-office visits. There is also a significant improvement in patient access to medical expertise, convenience, and care quality through collaborative care opportunities that otherwise would not exist in specific clinical case scenarios.
In the first few years, the MGH TeleHealth team worked on building and implementing scalable technology platforms and integration with existing clinical workflows. “The past year has been focused on feasibility and adoption by patients and clinicians, and feedback from both groups has been overwhelmingly positive. As we continue to expand the program, long-term sustainability is our top priority,” says Sossong.
Patient Experience & Satisfaction:
Overall, patient feedback about the telehealth experience has been very positive. The clinical team has learned that virtual visits are most successful with patients who have frequent touch points with the healthcare system or who are geographically distant.
“The virtual visits have helped me save on gas, parking, and still achieve what we want to achieve”, shares one telehealth patient. With virtual visits, “I have my doctor in my living room, and I feel like we're a team.”
“Our early surveys show high rates of satisfaction and willingness to pay,” Sossong adds. “While there aren’t any national benchmarks for patient satisfaction with telehealth, we have patient feedback on virtual visits around quality, privacy, ease of use of the technology, and satisfaction (i.e. CAHPS). While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, initial patient feedback about the virtual visit experience in selected domains reflects higher satisfaction rates than in-person visits.”
Clinician and Department Experience:
Clinicians across multiple programs have also found that virtual visits allow them to stay focused on delivering patient -centered care.
Specialists providing follow-up care for patients discharged to Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital typically take the shuttle between MGH in Boston and Spaulding. By enabling MGH specialists to conduct virtual visits with patients at Spaulding, patients receive more timely clinical care, and specialists have additional time to see patients in clinic, instead of sitting on a shuttle.
One high-volume medical practice reported that patients receiving care through virtual visits were more likely to show up for their scheduled appointments, reducing the overall no-show rate for the department. The practice manager explains, “Like anything, it takes time to learn a new way of doing things, but we’re excited to see how virtual visits become incorporated into standard medical care as clinicians and patients become increasingly comfortable with the technology and processes”.
FUTURE TELEHEALTH DIRECTION
The MGH TeleHealth team is developing plans to expand the program in 2015. “In the coming year, our goal for video-enabled virtual visits is to more fully integrate them into the standard practice of care by deepening adoption in existing departments and expanding to new departments. In the future, there are a number of exciting possibilities,” says Sossong.
Multiple Modalities: “While there is tremendous value in interventions using a single technology, such as video-enabled virtual visits, I’m eager to explore how we can design a seamless, convenient, patient-friendly experience by putting all the pieces together. For example, a patient being treated by a psychiatrist for depression could have a treatment plan which includes using an app for tracking mood changes throughout the day, receiving text reminders about medication or an upcoming appointment, exchanging emails with the clinician about symptoms in between visits and conducting a video-enabled virtual visit for therapy, or checking in on medication symptoms. When it’s necessary to be ‘touched’ by the healthcare team, the patient can come into the office for an in-person office visit.”
Patient Education: “While our current work is focused on everything that goes into making the video-enabled virtual visit happen, there’s interest in exploring related educational tools for patients as well. For example, a recording of the virtual visit, or even the in-person visit, could be helpful as an educational tool for patients and families to review once settled back home. I can envision a future where we’ll discharge surgery patients with online portal access to a recording of their own clinician’s instructions for post-operative care, which could be one of a suite of tailored educational tools including condition specific videos or articles, or even seasonal tools for things like cold/flu season.”
The MGH TeleHealth team is determined to identify where telehealth can work to bring care access, convenience, and education to patients. “People bank online, shop online and Skype with family and friends online. Patients will start to expect to receive healthcare this way too,” Sossong concludes.
Geisinger has been investing in mobile technologies to engage patients and their families in their care since 2011. In my blog post last year, I shared Geisinger’s texting programs, mobile data capture and experiences with their first mobile app to support Cardiac Rehab.
Geisinger continues to explore new technologies to involve patients and to improve the patient and physician interaction. “Mobile apps are just another way to drive patient engagement. We think we will have better adoption by patients if we use technology that they have already adopted in their lives”, explains Chanin Wendling, Director, eHealth, Geisinger Health System. “Our goals are to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. We pursue patient engagement because of studies from folks like Hibbard & Greene 2013 and Veroff & Wennberg 2013 that show that engaged patients have better outcomes at lower costs. We want to provide patients with tools that help them understand their condition and follow their care plans so they can stay as healthy as possible.”
Piloting Mobile App Supporting Bariatric Surgery
Geisinger began piloting their second mobile app Get~2~Goal in September, 2012 to help manage patients’ surgical weight loss expectation and provide a journal for tracking weight loss after the surgery. The Get~2~Goal app presents the patient with personalized weight management goals using her own entered data (e.g. age, weight, height). She can monitor her weight loss towards that goal and see how she is doing compared with other patients like her.
The app was developed by Geisinger’s Obesity Institute in collaboration with Bucknell University’s computer science staff and students.
Patients have shared positive comments including:
“Great App! Surgery on Tuesday, so this will be a great motivator”
“I like it. It's very helpful and lets you know whether you're on the right track or not weight wise. So far I'm doing above average. Woo hoo to us!”
The clinical sponsor for the Get~2~Goal project was Dr. Christopher Still, Director of Geisinger Obesity Institute and Medical Director for the Center for Nutrition & Weight Management. He uses the app when discussing bariatric surgery with his patients and, recommends that they download it to their mobile devices. Dr. Still has observed an improved patient/physician interaction when a patient sets realistic weight loss expectations with the guidance of the clinician. “This app allows patients and their physicians to discuss patient specific outcomes regarding gastric bypass surgery. It is important for both the patient and their physician to have real expectations and assess the risk/ benefit of the procedure.”
Building Mobile Apps Ourselves
In addition to experimenting with Cardiac Rehab and Get~2~Goal apps, Geisinger wants to expand into apps for different chronic conditions and set out to research the market. “We were disappointed with what we found. Most vendors had apps focused only on one chronic condition. Although vendors had plans to expand into other chronic conditions, we had a hard time picking a reasonable partner based on their stated direction”, Wendling explains.
Wendling feels the mobile health app market is still in the early stages. She explains that vendors are approaching her organization with a business model that just doesn’t scale. “If a vendor charges us a rate of $10+ per member per month, how do we make that work for patients with multiple conditions? We have over 75,000 patients with hypertension and 30,000+ with asthma. Although the app will not be appropriate for all of these patients, the costs add up rather quickly.”
After evaluating many mobile apps, Wendling points out that the patient experience is not thought through. She has asked vendors about how patients can personalize their app. “I may be a patient who works night hours so why shouldn’t I be able to set the time of the reminders to fit my schedule? Also, why can’t I select the method of receiving the reminders, through email or text messages”, adds Wendling.
The final reason that Geisinger has decided to build mobile apps internally is because integration is important. “We’ve found that many solutions do not integrate with our EMR which is essential since we need to incorporate the patient information into our clinical workflow” Wendling explains. “Although it is not unusual that the early innovated apps do not integrate with the EMR, vendors do recognize that they need to get there. So any app we purchase, we would most likely have to do the integration ourselves anyway. We haven’t made any decisions that we will always develop our own apps. If we see something out in the marketplace that works and we have the budget, we will go for it. We just may need to wait a little longer until the marketplace matures.”
Mobile App Development Journey
As their first venture into internal mobile app development, Geisinger selected a simple procedure and defined key capabilities which are replicable across more complex procedures. With the new Colonoscopy mobile app scheduled to be launched next month, patients can prepare for their procedure through:
- Education: explains what will happen during the procedure
- Shopping: lists can be created and transferred as a note to the mobile phone
- Reminders: for days before the procedure directing the patients to steps that need to be done
- Pictures: visual guides of their bowel movement during the preparation process
“Geisinger’s colonoscopy mobile app is unique among health care related apps in that it provides a personalized experience for the patient. From prep instructions based on scheduled appointment time, interactive ’am I ready for my procedure’ section to the ability to easily set reminders/alerts; this app takes advantage of a lot that mobile technology has to offer. As a gastroenterologist, my hope is that this app will allow patients to feel more empowered and in control of their bowel preparation; typically the most difficult part of the colonoscopy experience. We know that with improved prep comes better outcomes and thereby, over time, lives saved. I feel that modern health care needs to embrace mobile technology as a rapidly growing and exciting tool to improve patient care”, explains Dr. Amitpal S Johal, Director of Endoscopy, Geisinger Medical Center.
“We are looking into other surgical procedures which can use this same set of capabilities. One area that we are considering is Vascular surgeries since we work closely with our Vascular department at Geisinger”, shares Wendling.
Future Mobile Health Roadmap
As they look to the future, Geisinger is working on enhancing current mobile apps and is exploring the use of mobile to support patient care before, during and after a hospital visit.
The next version of the Get~2~Goal app is under development. Geisinger is improving the patient experience through a better user navigation, the capability for patients to enter their own weight loss goals, and the addition of recently developed calculations for other bariatric surgery outcomes (i.e. likelihood for remission of diabetes).
Geisinger is also looking into ways that mobile devices and apps can help patients pre, during and post hospital stay. They are starting with their Janet Weis Children’s Hospital which treats kids with complex conditions such as cancer, heart or neurological issues. Geisinger understands that being in the hospital is scary for the child and their family. “With mobile apps, children and their parents will be able to prepare for the surgery, use an iPad during their hospital visit to capture pain levels and then track their recovery at home”, describes Wendling.
In the future, Geisinger is planning for a personalized patient experience. “Our dream is to be tailored in our patient care. Given the patient’s profile, s/he will have technology options and tools to gather preferences and schedules to guide the care plan. We want to use this information to also match the appropriate intervention”, Wendling concludes.
In January 2013, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital launched the Rainbow Care Connection, a pediatric accountable care organization (ACO) with a $12.7 million CMS innovation grant to support children in Northeast Ohio, a third are enrolled in Medicaid. This innovative ACO has developed several successful mobile health initiatives to drive care collaboration with patients as part of their Physician Extension Team. This blog focuses on two key mobile health initiatives; iPads Minis for children with complex chronic conditions and HealthSpotSM, a community- based telemedicine kiosk.
iPad Mini For Care Collaboration
“We wanted to help children with chronic medical conditions, especially those who have difficulty speaking or getting around. For children that cannot walk, it is challenging to get them to the office. By giving them an iPad Mini, these children are able to communicate with their care team including physicians, nurses, social workers and dieticians”, explains Dr. Richard Grossberg, Medical Director of University Hospitals Center for Comprehensive Care. “Our goal with this project is to reduce office and ER visits with this video connectivity.”
In partnership with UH’s Rainbow Care Connection, the Center for Comprehensive Care strives to pioneer innovative ways to support children with complex chronic conditions, which can often seem overwhelming from a family’s perspective. As medical care continues to grow more complex, healthcare professionals acknowledge that families may need support beyond the clinic and hospital walls in order to be successful.
Children with complex chronic conditions make up about 5% of children who access health care services but account for up to 50% of Medicaid dollars spent. “We were looking for an additional layer to outpatient care; providing families with an opportunity to manage less acute issues in the comfort of their own home”, Dr. Grossberg shares. “Launched in December 2013, we felt that video calls would be the most innovative and cost effective solution to accomplish this and have currently distributed 10 iPad mini devices to families.”
How do video calls work? A family uses their iPad mini to conduct a “video call” with the office. During their telemedicine visit, a Comprehensive Care nurse helps the family triage what is happening and can resolve or escalate care to a physician/nurse practitioner or acute care setting when needed. Additional applications of the video call are being trialed including conducting nutritional counseling and education by UH’s Comprehensive Care dietitians and therapeutic counseling completed by their Comprehensive Care social workers.
After the video call, the visit summary is documented and sent to the patient’s PCP. If a video call is escalated to include an ED or hospitalization, the UH acute care team has full electronic access to all of the video calls and assessment notes. Having the necessary tools to help guide a family though those moments when their child’s complex conditions go awry and help them overcome barriers to care is critical to helping families receive better care, achieve better health and gain a healthcare partner to share in their patient experiences.
UH’s Rainbow Care Connection aims to reduce ER costs by finding new ways to support patients who go the ER with minor medical problems.
“Since we know that 70% of Medicaid patients in the ER can be managed in a less acute setting, we were looking for an alternative to provide access to care after hours. We wanted to test offering a solution in a community setting to see if this population would feel more comfortable getting after hours care in their own neighborhood rather than from a medical setting. We felt that telemedicine would be the most cost effective solution to accomplish this”, shares Dr. Andrew Hertz, Medical Director of University Hospitals Rainbow Care Connection. We had already piloted a HealthSpotSM kiosk running in our clinic and were ready to place a kiosk into a community setting”, Dr. Hertz explains.
“We decided on the HealthSpotSM kiosk vs other telemedicine units because of the incredible patient experience provided by the HealthSpotSM unit, including diagnostic equipment and the ability to transmit real-time vital signs and physical images.” Dr. Hertz and his team thought carefully about where to place the kiosk. “We started with a zip code analysis of patients coming into our ER to select potential locations and met with Community Neighborhood Association Leaders to discuss options. We chose the Friendly Inn Settlement (community building) in Cleveland and launched the program in October 2013.”
How does the HealthSpotSM kiosk work? A patient and their family members step into the fully enclosed kiosk with a medical assistant who helps support them during their high-definition video conference visit with the doctor who may be located a few towns away. “Our doctor is on the computer screen, with video and audio connectivity to instruments (i.e. scale, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, otoscope, thermometer, dermascope, pulse oximeter) and decides which tools to use and when by unlocking the door at the right time. It is cool when they unlock it. It is magical to see the door open and the instrument there. Our patients and their families see what physician is seeing as they use their different devices. It is a wonderful educational experience”, describes Dr. Hertz.
Patients use the HealthSpotSM kiosk to take care of minor ailments and get check-ups, as an alternative to an emergency room visit. A parent/guardian can accompany a child from age three to 18 during their visit to the UH Rainbow HealthSpotSM station during weekdays from 5:30 – 11 p.m. and weekends from 1 – 11 p.m.
Since the launch of HealthSpotSM, Dr. Hertz and his team at UH have met with over 50 patients, with problems including rashes, fever, strep throat and pink eye.
After the remote appointment with the doctor, the visit summary is documented and sent manually to the patient’s PCP. “Our physicians currently document the visit on paper and fax it to the PCP who may be outside of the UH network. Over 50% of these patients are not in UH Rainbow’s system so we share their information like a retail clinic. We have an interest in having HealthSpotSM integrate this visit information into our hospital EMR,” explains Dr. Hertz.
“Anytime we can spend time with a patient in their own environment, we can better understand and address their needs.” Dr. Hertz adds that by understanding why patients choose the ER as their source of care enables his team to identify opportunities to change that behavior and meet patient needs. Certainly, having after-hours access to quality care in the inner city is valued by patients since the ER is often their only after-hours option.
Patients and family caregivers have had a very positive experience with the telemedicine visit within UH’s HealthSpotSM kiosk. 85% have indicated that if they did not have the HealthSpotSM visit, they would have gone to the ER. Over 90% would use it again. Here are some comments around value of the visit to them:
It's convenient and less time consuming.
I love the equipment and technology.
The one on one with the doctor.
That you get to see what's going on inside the little areas most doctors won't show you.
Close to home and speed of service.
Very helpful for my community.
Future Opportunities for UH Patient & Family Engagement
The team at the UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Rainbow Care Connection is already planning ways to use the HealthSpotSM kiosk to bring care access to other patient populations. “Next we want to use telemedicine to enhance access to care in rural areas, where there are not a lot of specialists or after hours care options. We are planning to place a kiosk in a community building or a school”, Dr. Hertz adds.
In addition to expanding the HealthSpotSM kiosks, Dr. Hertz is interested in finding patient engagement tools that will help patients receive care through their phones to support the lower social economic population that tends to own mobile phones rather than computers. “No one has developed the mobile app for patients to receive care through smart phones which would enable a ‘meaningful clinical interaction’,” concludes Dr. Hertz.
You cannot turn on the television or look at a newspaper today without being reminded of the obesity epidemic facing our nation. According to a CDC study, over 37% of U.S. adults are obese, while about 70% are overweight.
Obesity has been associated with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes (type 2), cardiovascular disease and stroke. Last summer, American Medical Association classified Obesity as a disease, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently published guidelines recommending that primary care physicians provide obesity counseling to all patients with Body Mass Index over 25 (which classifies them as overweight).
Many Americans try to lose weight but do not have the tools or professional guidance to be successful. Most physicians don’t have the training or tools to provide a comprehensive weight management program in their practice, and sometimes refer patients to commercial programs that are not clinically supervised.
RediClinic has stepped in to help. “We have developed a medically supervised program which is not just about weight loss but about health management”, explains Danielle Barrera, Chief Operating Officer at RediClinic. “When we developed this program in 2009, we noticed that many programs on the market were missing critical elements of a successful weight management program, and did not incorporate healthcare professionals, who are well positioned to have a significant impact on their patients’ lifestyle and health decisions.”
According to IDC’s Connected Health 2014 Predictions, “Retail Clinics Will Disrupt the U.S. Healthcare System”. Most people think about Retail Clinics as a place for getting flu vaccinations or addressing acute problems such as strep throat or ear infections. Retail Clinics are bringing more services to the community and some are now offering preventive services (i.e. physical exams) and chronic disease monitoring.
Over the past two years, RediClinic has been offering a weight management program called Weigh Forward. Shoppers walk into one of their 30 locations inside grocery stores to sign up for the 10- week program. During the initial visit, the clinician does lab work to establish a base line to monitor progress in key health measures. Throughout the program, the clinician provides guidance and teaches life skills not only to lose weight, but keep it off.
“Our program is a ‘Connected Health’ model. Participants use the MyWeighForward platform to access educational information, track food and physical activity, and receive online coaching and social support between visits to the clinic. During weekly visits to RediClinic, the clinician reviews the participant’s program information (i.e. goals, lab work, tracking information and eCoaching activity) to deliver personalized guidance.”
RediClinic’s Weigh Forward program incorporates four key components which are reinforced both in- person and online through the program’s technology platform – myWeighForward.com:
1. Medical. Initial medical assessment with a comprehensive set of lab work, regular biometric monitoring and measurement, and weekly counseling by healthcare professionals.
2. Behavior Modification. Proprietary assessment tool developed at Yale's Prevention Research Center by Dr. David Katz (WeighForward’s Medical Director) to identify and address individual barriers to success and readiness to change, to create a personalized weight loss plan.
3. Diet & Nutrition. Online educational information on food choices, weekly meal plans with 500+ recipes, and access to a diet/nutrition e-coach.
4. Physical Activity. Customized activity plan based on preferences and abilities, access to fitness videos and the capability to collaborate with a fitness e-coach.
Consumer Experience with the Weigh Forward Program
Deborah Hastings signed up for RediClinic's 10- week Weigh Forward program to start shedding 60 pounds. Deborah's daughter is getting married in six months and Deborah wants to get around without pain in her knees and to fit into a new dress for this special event.
During her first appointment, she meets with a clinician for a comprehensive evaluation to discuss her health and weight loss goals and determine her overall health status and readiness for change. She learns that her cholesterol and blood pressure are both high and that she is at risk for Metabolic Syndrome.
She uses the MyWeighForward.com portal to follow a meal plan suggested by the clinician and dietician eCoach, view exercise videos, and to track both her food and physical activity.
Deborah is preparing for week #5 visit which is teaching her that it “takes a village” to help her achieve her goals, and she needs support from family, friends and office co-workers. She inputs her Visit objective, completes her checklist of specific tasks and selects a "Barriers to Bust", how to deal with family when they are sabotaging her diet. This barrier is posted on her Visit Plan which she will review with the clinician during her RediClinic visit. While Deborah finishes her homework, her clinician reaches out to the eCoach that Deborah has been working with to discuss nutrition concerns. Within the private clinical portal on the Weigh Forward platform, they discuss strategies for Deborah. During the upcoming visit, Deborah will work with the clinician on the barrier she has selected and will consider suggestions from her eCoach.
Deborah has taken advantage of the social community capabilities on the Weigh Forward platform. She created a profile with demographic information and indicated how much program information to share with other participants. Deborah has decided to share the “Busting the Barrier” badges that she has earned each week. Deborah searched to find others like her and has connected with over a dozen new friends. She has also found an online group with her same barriers and is looking to gain some new real life strategies to address them.
During her week #9 visit, her clinician will take a blood sample to compare key biometric markers to those measured at the beginning of the program. She will be able to view these measures and see her progress in reducing her cholesterol and Metabolic risk in her MyWeighForward program account .
With several months before her daughter’s big event, Deborah is motivated to extend the program. She is planning on paying for the "Boost Maintenance Program with ongoing access to MyWeighForward with e-coaching as needed, monthly clinician visits and weekly in-clinic visits for "body composition analysis/biometrics".
Connected Health Program Engagement & Results
Although the Weigh Forward Program was launched in 2011, it wasn’t until RediClinic moved to the new MyWeighForward Platform powered by Wellness Layers in October 2013 that they were able to offer enhanced functionality and support for patients and clinicians including:
- Personalized Consumer Experience & Outcome: Participants create their own mini- electronic health record which collects program information, preferences, visit planning, tracking data, social engagement and progress through health measures. Program participants have the convenience of seeing different clinicians within the same clinic based on appointment availability or in a different location since all RediClinic clinicians have access to the participant’s program information to deliver a consistently high quality and personalized experience.
- Social Engagement: WeighForward participants use the platform 24x7 for ongoing emotional and educational support through their weight loss journey.
- Clinician Support and Collaboration: Clinicians have their own portal, giving them access to information to support and consistently deliver the program and to privately and securely collaborate on care.
- Care Continuum: Participants can access a Program Summary with their program health measures to send to their own doctors. “If the patient has secure messaging with their physician, they can share this information to include in their EMR”, adds Barrera.
“Our results have been very positive. On average, our patients are losing 1- 2 lbs per week which is considered to be a healthy rate of weight loss, and are significantly improving their cardio-metabolic risk factors. In many cases our patients have moved from pre-hypertensive and hypertensive to normal and pre-diabetic to normal”, exclaims Barrera.
Comments from Program Participants
What I liked about the online part of the program was that it gave me homework to do to keep me accountable and focused.
I had been the 'queen of couch potatoes.' The best things about the program were the accountability each week, recipes and shopping list, and incredible support from the staff
Dr. David Katz's lesson on Trial by Aisle taught me to check ingredients lists for hidden sugars and salts, and to pick the shorter lists. The best thing about the program was it provided me with information to change my unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy lifestyle.
Future plans: New Business Model, New Technology Platform Capabilities
Today, most program participants walk into to RediClinic. However, RediClinic is now licensing the Weigh Forward program to other healthcare providers. “We’ve had significant interest and many pilot commitments from large healthcare systems and physician groups, as well as companies that operate retail, urgent care and worksite clinics. Everyone is looking for a turn-key weight and lifestyle management solution for their patients because obesity is so pervasive and expensive. Weigh Forward is one of the few comprehensive programs that is designed to be delivered by clinicians with no previous background in weight management,” Barrera adds.
Regardless of where the consumer is seen, in the clinic or in their PCP’s office, RediClinic is extending the capabilities of the WeighForward technology platform. “We are continuing to enhance the social networking capabilities of the platform, will introduce a mobile version later this year, and are beginning to develop modified versions of Weigh Forward that address chronic diseases, since the platform we’ve built is flexible and extensible”, concludes Barrera.
According to CDC research, over 30% of U.S. adults have Metabolic Syndrome, a set of five risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist size, high triglycerides and low (good) cholesterol.