With the shift to value- based care, health systems are investing in mobile technologies to increase patient engagement and care quality while reducing the cost of care delivery.
Geisinger, an award winning healthcare system based in the Mid-Atlantic with 12 hospitals and a 510K+ health plan, is a leader in patient engagement. Within their organization, the Geisinger in Motion team focuses on strategic initiatives to drive patient engagement by co-creating with patients on digital technology solution design, capabilities and efficacy.
Geisinger’s digital patient engagement initiatives are designed to support three key strategies 1) “understand my health”, 2) “manage my stay or visit” and 3) “control my condition (or specific acute episode)”.
Last fall, the Geisinger in Motion team embarked on a project to enhance their patient education resources, which spans all three patient engagement strategies. Although they already offered a comprehensive set of patient education materials (i.e. handouts, online resources, targeted classes, individual conversations), Geisinger was looking to expand the reach of these resources for patients and their families.
“The genesis of the idea came from a pilot for patients that were having Lumbar Spine surgery”, explains Chanin Wendling, AVP, Geisinger in Motion. Geisinger focused on this patient population because of the prevalence back pain problems across the nation, the volume of surgeries done annually (approximately 2,000) and high patient co-pays for the surgery.
“For this pilot, we loaded 10 iPads with educational content and loaned them to patients for about 4 months during the time before and after surgery”, Wendling shares. “After the pilot, we realized that we needed to come up with a different approach. CMS prevented us from giving the iPads to their patients, a critical population that we didn’t want to exclude. In addition, it was very expensive to have enough iPads for all patients and took a lot of work to get the iPads back.”
From the pilot, Geisinger also learned that patients wanted to use a device with everything on it. After evaluating different mobile tools, Geisinger elected to use Apple’s iBook and iTunes University to conveniently package a set of patient resources in one place and enable patients and their families to easily access and consume education content when needed, pre and post- surgery.
Geisinger began by bringing together existing components into the iBook. ”We had built a number of tools over time and were trying to leverage what we had to deliver a full ‘patient engagement package’ solution”, adds Wendling.
The Lumbar Spine patient education solution encompasses:
- Comprehensive set of interactive videos, animations, images
- MyGeisinger Patient Portal- 350k+ users with access to their patient record, visit notes and pre-visit prep
- MySurgery: Lumbar Spine reminder mobile app – Developed for the iPad loan pilot, this app reminds the patient of activities that need to be done pre and post- surgery
- Health (electronic) questionnaires for Lumbar Spine outcomes & medication reconciliation – These have been in place for a several years
Patient Education Experience & Engagement
When Geisinger patient Lisa decides to have lumbar spine surgery, she receives a handout explaining how to use her mobile device (iPhone, iPad) to access a suite of patient engagement tools through iTunes University or to download an iBook. Lisa’s friends and family can also access the educational materials to help her throughout surgery prep and recovery. The handout instructs Lisa to contact the Nurse Navigators listed with any questions.
Patient Lisa engages electronically with these educational resources which contain animations, videos and interactive components. She moves through the chapters covering “meeting the care team”, “learning about the surgery”, “diet and medication guidelines”, “what to do before surgery”, “what to expect day of and after surgery” and even ”Navigating the Geisinger Medical Center”.
Within the course, patient Lisa is encouraged to download the Lumbar Spine App to receive reminders about pre and post- surgery activities such as diet and medication requirements, what to expect during the hospital stay, things to watch for post- surgery (e.g. fever), how to address pain, exercise and sexual activity. Three and twelve months after surgery, Lisa receives a notification and logs into her patient portal to complete health questionnaires about her Lumbar Spine recovery outcomes and medication. All of the information that Lisa enters flows into the EMR so that the care team can monitor her recovery.
“We have received very positive response from our patients who like accessing these resources all in one place. It helps by setting expectations, reinforces materials discussed at clinic visits, reminds them of important steps and gives them a reference to share with family and friends. Since the 3 month visit tends to be difficult to schedule and not all providers feel it is necessary, the questionnaire responses let the team check in with the patient and follow-up if there is a need”, describes Wendling.
Geisinger has expanded this education offering beyond Lumber Spine with iBooks for Pediatric Concussion and NICU (for parents). “Pediatrics was the initial area for our IPS project (iPads while patients are in the hospital). We learned about the high-volume of print materials that are handed out in the NICU and realized that we needed to give parents a better tool”, Wendling explains.
The Geisinger in Motion & IT teams continue to tackle resource issues and have "more ideas than we can execute”. Currently, they are working through a set of operational issues for tracking and measurement:
Activity Tracking-Fitbit/Withings: Although it was part of iPad pilot (e.g. 10 patients were given a Fitbit), it is not currently in iTunes University. “We are waiting on a project where the ability to get patient generated health data from wearables will be available in the patient portal and then can automatically be uploaded into the EMR”, Wendling shares.
Measurement: “We completed and posted the Lumbar Spine course in December with an access code but then had to work with Apple to get qualified as an education institution in order to make it available publicly. From iTunes University, there have been about 30 downloads of the Lumbar Spine, 20 downloads of each of the NICU books and 16 of the Concussion. This is a public system so it is really hard to determine who is downloading. We are using survey data to better understand the profile of our users”, Wendling adds.
In the future, Geisinger plans to bring out bariatric surgery education through iBook and iTunes University. “Obesity is a significant health issue in Pennsylvania and the components around healthy weight and eating can also be used for other conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and hypertension. We hope this will be a building block as we expand our education resources to support patients and families”, concludes Wendling.