Carolinas HealthCare’s Diabetes Patients Collaborate with Coaches Using Data from Smartphones and Devices
Carolinas Healthcare System, the second largest public, not-for-profit healthcare system in the U.S. (39 hospitals, 900 care locations) based in the Southeast, is committed to using technology to engage patients for better care. Last Fall, Carolinas HealthCare launched their Virtual Visit initiative to bring convenience to patients. Like other innovative healthcare systems, Carolinas HealthCare also launched a mobile app for patients to access their portal (MyCarolinas), inform about the closest urgent care location with wait times as well as offer a provider search.
“This was just the beginning,” explains Pamela Landis, AVP Information Services at Carolinas HealthCare System. “We wanted to go beyond supporting patients when they needed care to becoming part of our patients’ every day health.”
Based on the market trends showing consumer’s increasing use of both mobile and social media, Carolinas HealthCare System decided to invest in technology to provide ongoing information and support. While conducting marketing research, Carolinas HealthCare learned about consumers use of different wearables and tools to track activity, fitness, nutrition, sleep and health issues and heard about their frustrations having information housed into various apps. For instance, a person could be tracking their activity in Runkeeper and using a Bluetooth-enabled scale and blood pressure cuff. All that data is being stored in separate apps.
“We wanted to address their needs, giving them a holistic view of their health by bringing together information from all of their trackers. We leverage the health kits from the major smartphone platforms for the information aggregation,” shares Landis.
“The first app, Carolinas Tracker, available in both the Apple and Android stores, enables consumers in the community to aggregate their health data from apps and devices into one place and view a dashboard to see where they need to focus their attention (i.e. be more active and manage their health conditions).” Carolinas Tracker gives people an easy way to track their health and provides clinical context around how they are doing. Consumers can not only see how many steps they have done through their Fitbit data but also whether that is enough to reach their goals through their Carolinas Tracker dashboard.
The second app, MyCarolinas Tracker for Carolinas patients, will enable patients to bring together the same tracking information as the consumer app but will also integrate with their lab data in their patient portal. This patient app will also have goal setting capabilities and enable some patients to collaborate with their health coaches.
New Tool for Diabetes Patient & Coach Care Collaboration
Carolinas HealthCare System is planning a program to provide this new mobile app to diabetes patients, given the size of the diabetes patient population at Carolinas (90k patients), significant rise in Type 2 diabetics, the impact on other diseases and long term impact on a patient’s health.
“We are envisioning an ongoing program (i.e. not a pilot) and want to learn from the early adopters. We plan to invite patients through their physician practice and through our coaching program,” Landis adds.
Success Measures for Diabetes Coaching App Program
After launching the Diabetes program, Carolinas HealthCare System will look at “adoption metrics” since this type of technology is still in the early stage of use in the market. With many health apps today downloaded and not used, Carolinas HealthCare is interested in seeing app usage such as when and how the app is being used.
“We want to see if patients will integrate the app into their life to live better by taking ownership of their health,” explains Landis.
Carolinas HealthCare is planning to collect qualitative feedback from consumers and patients through surveys and focus groups to see if/how the app has helped the patient better understand their health and whether it has made the patient feel more in charge of their health.
“We are very interested to hear about the patient’s motivation to use the app and understand triggers, actions and rewards. We want to explore social influence. For example, do the social capabilities with family/friends/care circle help the patient stay more engaged and does this make her more motivated to use the app? Carolinas Healthcare will also look at hard core usage stats – usage/how often,” Landis explains.
"When thoughtfully designed and deployed, technology can enhance the relationship of patients with their health and their healthcare team. The solutions we are building will promote empowered patients and collaborative care delivery," explains Dr. Gregory Weidner, an internist at Carolinas Healthcare System in Charlotte, N.C. . Dr. Weidner is also the medical director for Primary Care Innovation and Proactive Health and brings vision and leadership to ambulatory care redesign and digital patient engagement initiatives.