About This Blog

 

Sherri Dorfman, CEO, Stepping Stone Partners

Connected & Digital Health Innovation Specialist

My blog is designed to spotlight healthcare organizations with innovative uses of technology & data to drive Care Coordination, Collaboration & Patient Engagement.

These new approaches may influence your product & service roadmap, partnership and marketing strategies.

My Expertise: 

Over 18 years ago, I moved my focus from consumer-centric technologies in other industries (i.e. financial services, retail) to healthcare technology.  

While consulting, I leverage my extensive experience, knowledge and professional network to help companies make the right strategic product and marketing decisions. Services include: 

> Strategic Planning Market Review: Competitive Assessments, Partnership Evaluations. Workshop facilitation. Insight drives product, partnership and marketing strategies 

> Product Roadmap Planning: Product conceptualization, definition and validation through Marketing Research. Work Sessions for product suite planning with solutions from mergers, acquisitions, partnerships and purchases

> Strategic Product Marketing: Differentiated value proposition story incorporated into marketing & sales assets

Find out how I can help you. Call me at 508-655-6585. Email me at SDorfman@Stepping-Stone.net to set up an exploratory discussion. 

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    Entries in mobile health application (17)

    Geisinger Drives Mobile Patient Engagement with Education through iBooks & iTunes University

    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.

    Stanford’s ClickWell: Virtual Model for Primary Care

    In January 2015, Stanford Medicine launched ClickWell Care, a new type of Primary Care clinic which leverages technology to allow patients to virtually connect with their own Stanford primary care clinicians and wellness coaches via video or phone visits.  Patients use the MyHealth mobile app to schedule and conduct a video visit and share home health device data with the care team. Through this model, patients can choose to receive all of their primary care including integrated wellness coaching virtually, unless the physician indicates the need to come into the clinic for vaccinations, pap smears, procedures, or other physical exam needs.

    “Initially we created this virtual model for our ACO. We knew that 18-30 year olds were not interacting with primary care and were choosing to go to the Emergency Department or urgent care for their needs. During focus groups with this patient population, we learned they were so busy and didn’t have time to come into the office but really valued the relationship with their doctor. They wanted to receive care from their doctor but it wasn’t available in a way that was convenient to them.  We knew that we needed to use technology to help support this relationship and not replace it”, explains Sumbul Desai, Medical Director ClickWell Care and Vice Chair of Strategy and Innovation in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

    ClickWell clinicians and coaches support healthy patients and the ‘rising risk’ (e.g. up to 2 conditions), who are employees of Stanford University, Stanford Adult and Children’s Hospitals. With this highly educated, tech savvy patient population, there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage mobile tools to enhance the patient experience.

    Patients see a doctor for primary care visits and engage with a wellness coach on health goals (i.e. weight loss, stress, activity, and nutrition) and to receive support for chronic conditions (i.e. diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia).  “The average age of a ClickWell patient is 36 years old.  However, we have a growing group of 40-65 year olds, part of the ‘rising risk’ population, who prefer to do the majority of their visits virtually. These patients feel comfortable interacting by phone or video because they have a better understanding of the healthcare system and their health goals than our younger patients”, Desai shares.

    The ClickWell Care program is designed to give patients complete control over how they want to access and interact with their doctor/coach and convenience of extended hours. Although patients have the option of scheduling a face to face appointment, they are incentivized to participate in a “no fee” virtual phone or video visit. Patients simply log into the MyHealth portal for their virtual appointment. 

    To date in the ClickWell program, there have been 2,142 visits; 43% conducted in-person, 32% through phone visits and 25% via video visits. ClickWell staff have seen 1,223 patients. Although 30% of new patients start off with a virtual visit, most prefer to meet their doctor first in-person. After an initial face to face visit, 60% opt to see their doctor virtually for their return visits via phone or video.

    MyHealth Mobile AppAll patient information from the virtual visit is transmitted to the Epic EMR and is accessible through the MyHealth portal. Patients can ask follow up questions through the portal.  When patients need to have blood work done, they are directed to the lab without having to come into the doctor’s office, and lab results are incorporated into the EMR with portal access. “Stanford was the first to use Epic’s integrated telemedicine service because we wanted this visit information available to patients in the portal and clinicians in their daily workflow”, confirms Lauren Cheung, Physician, ClickWell Care, and Medical Director, Strategic Innovations at Stanford University School of Medicine.

    “One myth about telemedicine is that many patients choose to do video visits over phone visits. The truth is that it is an extra effort for the patient to participate in a video visit since the patient needs to be in front of a computer or mobile screen versus the phone visit which can be done while walking around”,  Cheung adds.

    “Back in 2013, we rolled out video visits as part of our primary care practice but we didn’t see a strong uptake. When we conceived the ClickWell Care program, we knew that we needed to introduce wellness coaching to provide a complete overall healthcare experience and deliver a higher level of healthcare service to our patients”, describes Desai.

    Strong collaboration with IT and Operations have been pivotal in implementing this new care model. Through this collaboration, ClickWell has been able to leverage the new MyHealth app developed internally and has worked closely with IT to improve the platform and video visit capabilities to provide an excellent patient experience.

    As part of the ClickWell Care program, the MyHealth mobile app helps strengthen care collaboration. The doctor/coach prescribes the health tracking app to the patient as a way to monitor key measures which may include steps, weight and blood pressure. The patient uses the MyHealth app to upload tracking data from Withings, Fitbit and Apple HealthKit to the EMR, sharing health status between visits. “When I see a patient with blood pressure trending higher, I ask the patient to schedule an online visit so that we can discuss how to address this through diet or medication changes”, Cheung explains.

    ClickWell Lessons Learned

    The Stanford Medicine team has gained insight into ClickWell Care program usage, the telehealth platform and mobile app to bring the most value to primary care patients and providers. They understand that it is not about the technology but instead about how the technology is put into the care model through a program.

    Patients have shared many positive comments about the ClickWell Care program:

    “Video visits allowed me to continue with pressing work concerns, instead of taking time off work to travel to a clinic. Video visits allowed me to chat with a Doctor late in the evening, and appointments were very easy to get.  I felt that my virtual care was more personalized and provided a better experience.

    “I have not had many medical issues until recently. It is such a relief being able to ask questions and get answers quickly. My wellness appointments have me watching my diet and exercise regimen. Everything is done efficiently. I cannot say enough about the whole team that has been watching over me.”

    “My experience with the ClickWell Clinic has been extremely informative and remarkably efficient. The flexibility they offer works perfect for people with busy schedules, without sacrificing the quality of care. The model of the Clinic makes other forms of healthcare communication feel outdated.”  

    “I have never had better communication and quicker responses than I have since becoming part of this program. I travel a lot and therefore keeping up via phone calls is not that practical. Being able to send messages electronically and to have an appointment via video chat is ideal.”

    Doctors and wellness coaches have provided mostly positive feedback as well:

    “Overall my experience with virtual visits in the clinic has been very positive. Compared to my previous experience with only in-person visits, it seems like the virtual option may make wellness patients more likely to continue with follow-ups. The integration with the doctors is also helpful in learning more about the patients and providing well-rounded care. It is a unique experience to be able to discuss treatments so closely with the patient’s doctors and in such a timely manner.”

    “The integration of clinical care with wellness coaching has been phenomenal. I couldn’t imagine going back to health coaching without it. I am able to provide more targeted, individualized, and thorough care to my patients since I have full access to their medical records, provider notes, and work directly with their primary care physicians. Working directly alongside physicians has helped me to expand my knowledge on chronic disease management, stay up to date on clinical guidelines and recommendations.”

    “As a provider, the technologies we use in this clinic allow us to quickly connect with our patients and address concerns for our patients proactively. The extended hours also allow for expanded patient access, as well as a flexible schedule for providers who staff the clinic who may desire alternative hours outside of the usual 9-5 business day.” 

    “Through our discussions with patients, we have also heard some suggestions for change. In the beginning, we were contacting patients to convince them to switch from in person to virtual visits. This frustrated some patients and most wanted to stay with the modality that they had initially chosen”, Desai shares. 

    Future ClickWell Care

    As with other healthcare systems across the country, Stanford Medicine sees what is happening with the retail pharmacies increasing care access to patients. However, they believe this only fragments care because the visits are outside of the patient/doctor relationship. ClickWell Care is designed to be “longitudinal” and not episodic.

    In 2016, Stanford Medicine is looking to extend into specialty care. “We are interested in integrating preventative cardiology for our patients since care entails discussing and improving risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which can be done virtually. Preventative cardiology patients would also benefit from wellness coaching to improve their risk factors for disease.

    We also want to expand the use of connected health devices. Currently, very few patients upload and share their data with our care team. We are planning to incorporate this health tracking into a program for a  patient population (e.g. specific chronic conditions) and integrate this information into clinical workflow to ensure that these patients receive excellent care. With our Precision Health initiative, we are not just interested in treating illness but rather finding tools to deliver a personalized health and wellness experience to ensure the best outcomes”, Desai concludes.

    Innovative Providers Use Technology to Stay Connected with Patients Pre- Surgery through Recovery 

    Healthloop Virtual Patient Check in

    Healthcare reform has placed increased demands on doctors who are already managing increased patient loads. As a result, doctors are spending less time with their patients.

    Patients are being asked to take on more responsibility in managing their care. This is particularly challenging before and after a surgical procedure. A patient typically leaves the hospital with a stack of paper discharge instructions about medications, the follow- up visit and a list of symptoms to monitor with directions to contact the doctor if problems occur. Throughout recovery, the patient is often left to figure things out because she "doesn’t want to bother the doctor".  When the patient makes uninformed decisions about medications or readiness to begin an activity level, it can set her back on her recovery path or lead to costly hospital readmissions.

    Other than checking in with patients during the follow- up visit, providers are in reactive mode; patients calling with complex problems or heading to the ER.

    Since patient satisfaction, care quality and costs are impacted by the current process, providers are motivated to find a solution that virtually supports the patient's needs for guidance, education and shared decision making.

    Virtual Patient Support

    It all started in 2007 when Dr. Jordan Shlain was treating a patient who wasn’t feeling well. After discussing her symptoms, he gave the patient his cell number and asked to please call him if she felt worse by morning. He discovered a few days later that she had developed pneumonia. From this experience, Dr. Shlain learned that although he wanted to be proactive with his care, he couldn’t depend on the patient to call with an update. His began texting patients asking “do you feel the same, better or worse?” Dr. Shlain did not take any chances and assumed that a non- response from the patient indicated there may be a problem.

    After speaking with providers about not really knowing how a patient is doing post discharge, they expressed interest in daily virtual interactions with the patient as a way to increase patient engagement and prevent readmissions. Patients loved the idea of interacting electronically with their doctor on a daily basis since it would give them unprecedented access to communicate concerns and address problems in a quick and convenient way. This was the backdrop that led to the development of Healthloop.

    “Since late June, we have been using Healthloop for patients who have hip and knee replacement surgery”, shares Dr. Mohan, Surgeon for a large Integrated Delivery Network. “Our team was looking for a solution that would enable us to share the experience together with our patient. We also wanted to put the patient in the driver’s seat and give them control, while we were in the passenger seat as an observer and navigator.” Dr. Mohan’s orthopedic patients are on Healthloop before surgery and throughout recovery which tends to be 1-3 months.

    Dr. Andrew Goldstone, ENT Surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center started using Healthloop in February with his adult and pediatric patients throughout recovery which typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Healthloop electronic communications are delivered to the parents of his young patients for ongoing support. "HealthLoop, in a technologically modern way, tries to mimic the old days when we admitted patients a day or so before and kept them as many days as we or they wanted to stay after surgery. This gave patients and their families a comfort level that most current M.D.s have never witnessed. The same goes with patients who, after ambulatory surgery, pay at the next window and go home. They have no clue how patient friendly it used to be having an extended ’hand holding‘  before returning home. I view HealthLoop as an attempt to recreate that extended comfort,” explains Dr. Goldstone.

    Patient Experience

    HealthLoop enables the physician to support the patient before surgery and monitor him post discharge and between visits, engaging each patient “as if he is the most important person”. With the goal of delivering guidance when the patient needs it, Healthloop works closely with the provider organization to define the questions that patients ask at each step of the recovery process. Together, they review typical calls at day 1, 2, etc., determine the appropriate response and set up the schedule to deliver the information to the patient right when they need it.

    Taking a closer look at the patient experience, Gary is referred by his primary care physician to a specialist about knee surgery. After deciding together to move forward with the operation, the surgeon quickly enrolls Gary in Healthloop to guide him before and after the surgery. Gary receives an email to complete his enrollment including his preferences for receiving Healthloop communications (i.e. email, text). 

    Before surgery, Gary answers questions about risk factors and receives guidance and checklists to prepare for his operation. For example, he learns how to to prepare his house to easily navigate when he returns home following surgery.

    After surgery, Gary receives a daily electronic communication with a set of questions to understand how he is feeling (i.e. pain level, specific symptoms, problems with meds, etc.), personalized education materials, activity and medication reminders and a checklist of To Dos. Based on Gary’s feedback and progress, his care plan is updated and his next day’s check-in is automatically prepared. 

    Healthloop is designed for two way engagement. If Gary experiences any health problems, these are gathered through his check- in responses and trigger an SMS message to his care team for intervention and support.

    With recent integration to Apple’s Healthkit, patient information is extended beyond daily check- in responses to include health tracking data. For example, Gary’s doctor has instructed him to take steps while healing from his knee operation. Gary’s tracker information is combined with his daily check-ins to give his care team more insight into his health status. Concerned about not enough movement, his clinician may call and learn that Gary is not moving enough because of his medication side effects which can be addressed through a prescription change. 

    Pilot Feedback; Patients & Providers

    Healthloop wants to deliver a truly patient- centric communication channel and uses patient feedback to enhance the solution. After hearing a patient comment that the messages felt “too robotic” and “do not sound like they are coming from my doctor”, the communications were refined to be more conversational.

    Another patient commented that the messages were using doctor’s words which resulted in changes to incorporate more patient vocabulary and experience. For example, questions about a blood clot were replaced with “feels like a cramp in my calf”.

    Patient Comments

    Healthloop has delivered over 57,000 daily check-ins to patients and has received positive feedback about the experience:

    Guidance: “I wanted to be able to say ‘I have this” and have someone come back and say that is normal and here is the process. Then all of my negative energy goes away”, “easy way for me to make sure that I was on the track with my recovery”. “The questions promoted me to be more aware of my situation”.

    Convenience: “Without Healthloop. I would have called (doctor) 5- 7 times”, “This saved me a trip to my doctor”.

    Access: “It was an extension of my doctor so instead of talking to a nurse and having her get back to me, I had a direct conduit to my doctor.”

    Provider Comments

    Healthloop Clinician Dashboard

    “As our team developed our Healthloop, we charted out what a recovery really is. With this, I know what my patient is going through, can emphasize and say with confidence that over half of my patients have their pain under control after day 4”, explains Dr. Mohan. “We also participate in a Medical Destination Program with patients traveling to our hospital, often from out of state. After staying in a hotel for 10- 14 days, they come to see me for a follow-up visit before returning home. We are now thinking about how we can use Healthloop to manage their care from a distance to make sure that the patient has a successful recovery.”

    Comments from other providers:

    Patient Satisfaction: “My patients told me that they looked forward to their daily Healthloop check-ins because it felt like ‘someone was watching over me’ who really cared”.

    Operational Efficiency: “For my practice, the volume of calls from patients has dropped tremendously. I notice it and my staff notices it too.”  “I am thinking about eliminating the 2 week follow-up visit and to just see the patient at the 6 week visit since I can check in on their pain management, incision and any other issues through Healthloop.”

    Better Quality: “Helps us pick up complications much sooner. It reinforces a plan with what to do and reminders”, “We are raising the bar on care by ensuring that we are giving the patient the pre and post-surgery education and care that they need”.

    Success Measures

    Providers using Healthloop are evaluating a set of success factors based on their program goals. In addition to lower costs which is measured over time, providers are monitoring:

    Patient Engagement; Patient Satisfaction using the net promoter score.

    Better Quality; Benchmarking patient progress, measuring patient’s perceptions of care quality received

    Operational Efficiency; Call reduction to the practice 

    Regarding patient engagement, some providers are leveraging positive ratings through social media. Patients who give the highest scores (5 Star Ratings) are encouraged to share their ratings and experiences through the link provided to public review sites such as HealthGrades and Vitals. Patients who give average or below average score are asked to explain how the provider can improve. Patients have commented on everything from old waiting room magazines to being put on hold for too long when they call.

    With Healthloop, “my patients tell me that they are happy with the surgery because I was right there with them. I also notice patients are much more relaxed during their follow-up appointments. That is so important to me”, Dr. Mohan concludes.

    Geisinger Takes Mobile Patient Engagement to the Next Level

    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 Get 2 Goal Mobile AppGeisinger 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.

    University Hospitals’ Rainbow Care Connection Engages Pediatric Patients & Family Caregivers

    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.

    HealthSpotSM Station

    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.