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. 

Follow me on Twitter @SherriDorfman

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    Entries in personalization for health and wellness (20)

    Dartmouth- Hitchcock’s ImagineCare Platform Leverages Wearables, Connected Health & Analytics for Personalized Patient Care

    Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H), an innovative New England healthcare system with 1,000+ providers is committed to creating a “sustainable health system”, which proactively engages patients through new care models to achieve the triple aim.

    Over the years, D-H has invested in technologies that empower patients to collaborate with providers through shared decision tools and Telehealth, treating “patients and their families as partners in care”.

    D-H has been a pioneer in innovative payment models with both the government and commercial payers.

    In early 2015, D-H’s leadership team committed to create a truly patient-centric healthcare organization, which delivers high quality proactive personalized care to the patient beyond the hospital walls.

    “Dartmouth-Hitchcock purposefully set out to assemble a team of employees with backgrounds from other consumer industries like hospitality and retail that would augment the world-class capabilities of our clinical staff, to improve the health care delivery experience”, explains Vin Fusca, COO, ImagineCare.

    With their consumer- centric “healthcare without boundaries” vision, D-H management has designed a truly “care- driven” solution.  ImagineCare, a cloud- based platform, enables providers to closely collaborate with each patient to meet her care goals at any time and from anywhere.

    ImagineCare treats the patient holistically through the active and passive collection of a comprehensive set of patient data. In addition to condition specific evidence-based care pathways (i.e. ImagineCare Hypertension Pathway, COPD Pathway, CHF Pathway, Diabetes Pathway), D-H incorporates a “Core Health Pathway” to capture steps, heart-rate activity, sleep, and stress (Behavioral Health), providing contextual insight into the patient’s health.  

    With ImagineCare, the Provider and patient have a window into the latest health status for insight and action. In the background, ImagineCare collects information from the patient (i.e. sensor- based devices, apps), combines it with EMR data (i.e. patient visits, labs, meds) and processes it through complex clinical care algorithms with machine intelligence to pinpoint when the patient is at risk. High tech meets high touch when ImagineCare notifies the RN or Health Navigator to reach out to the patient for real-time support and intervention. 

    “ImagineCare leverages the best available technologies to assist with care, but does not replace the importance of the human touch to drive behavior change. ImagineCare seamlessly combines these components to help patients achieve their health goals”, shares Dr. Ethan Berke, Chief Medical Officer, ImagineCare.

     Patient Experience

    During her recent doctor’s visit, (patient) Pam decides to participate in D-H’s new ImagineCare Program to help her lose weight and proactively manage her hypertension.

    Within 48 hours, Pam receives an email to quickly enroll in ImagineCare and a welcome call to discuss her personal health goals. Two days later a personalized ImagineCare Kit (box) is delivered to her door containing a program overview, a wireless blood pressure cuff and an activity band, devices which fit her selected health goals. Pam follows the instructions to connect her devices to the ImagineCare app.

    During enrollment, Pam’s shares her profile information such as personal health goals, challenges, communication preferences, family support, and defines her “medical neighborhood” (i.e. Providers, pharmacy, caregivers). She adds more information when responding to daily questions to create a rich picture about her health needs and resources required to tackle care plan activities.

    Anxious about her attempts to lose weight, Pam indicates in the mobile app that she only wants to receive texts to help her stay on track with her weight-management goal.

    Through the ImagineCare mobile app, Pam answers daily questions about how she is really doing, while her wireless blood pressure cuff and activity band retrieve and send real-time measures. Pam receives nudges, encouraging messages and digital check-ins to ensure she stays on track with her care plan. Yesterday’s text asked Pam if she was okay since she hadn’t provided her blood pressure as expected.

    D-H’s RNs and Health Navigators continuously monitor Pam’s health status, review her trends, and respond to risk warnings by reaching out via text which is her communication preference. Since Pam designates her daughter as a personal health representative within the mobile app, ImagineCare’s RNs are permitted to speak with her about Pam’s health.

    ImagineCare Success Measurement

    ImagineCare is designed to empower a health care organization to right-size provider visits, lower ED utilization and decrease admission and re-admissions. ImagineCare provides a more engaging solution to help health care delivery systems increase quality of care, decrease cost and improve patient experience.  

    In addition to these quantitative measures, D-H actively gathers qualitative patient feedback to understand the patient experience. Comments from patients about engaging in the ImagineCare program include:

    “I monitor my blood pressure every day, and after a particularly stressful day at the office I went home, took my blood pressure, and five minutes later one of the nurses called and talked me through an immediate care protocol.”

    “It has improved my ability to manage my health…The ability to connect with people for support and also send information to my healthcare providers, makes it easier.”

    "I am extremely impressed with the ImagineCare phone app. It is very easy to use and seems very intuitive”.

    ImagineCare Future

    ImagineCare is constantly updating its services and products based on patience engagement data, clinical data, and new technological capabilities coming to market. In a digital health landscape that is becoming more fragmented, ImagineCare will continually create holistic, customer-centered health services to better care for patient populations.

    D-H’s team has packaged up the ImagineCare platform for other providers, payers and (self- insured) employers to deliver personalized patient care for better outcomes.  

    Virtua Navigates Orthopedic Patients Pre- & Post-Surgery with Improved Patient Engagement and Care Coordination

    WELLBE PLATFORM FOR PATIENT ENGAGEMENTWith an aging population and increase in chronic conditions including obesity, the demand for hip and knee operation is increasing dramatically. A study in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery estimates by 2030 “demand for total hip arthroplasties to grow by 174% to 572,000 and demand for primary total knee arthroplasties by 673% to 3.48 million procedures”.

    Responding to this strong demand and high procedure expense, CMS launched the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) payment bundle April 1st, focusing on cost and quality over a 90-day period beginning with the hospital admission. The CMS CJR Payment bundle is initially for about 800 selected hospitals across the country. 

    Although Virtua, one of New Jersey’s largest health systems with hospitals, surgical and rehabilitation centers, is voluntarily participating in the BPCI payment bundle, their investment in the orthopedic patient experience at their Joint Replacement Institute (JRI) started long before the payment model changes. 

    Virtua Health’s Orthopedic Patient Care Journey 

    Back in 2000, Virtua adopted the Six Sigma methodology and launched the STAR initiative to deliver an "outstanding patient experience”.

    “When we look at how we can change and improve a process, we focus on the patient and understand what they need, not what we think they need,” explains Kate Gillespie, AVP of Virtua’s Orthopedic Service Line. 

    With a commitment to enhancing the orthopedic (hip, knee) surgery experience, Virtua listened to patients discuss their challenges and needs. Through focus group research (Spring 2015), Virtua learned:
    • Orthopedic patients need a lot of information to get ready for their surgery but are overwhelmed when inundated with too much at one time.
    • Patients place a high value on their doctor’s suggestions to achieve best results.
    • Patients that are prepared are more confident and will participate in the process leading to improved outcomes.
      
    “We learned that as patients prepared for surgery, they were asked many of the same questions by different members of our care team,” said Gillespie. “We needed to improve the patient experience and ensure the consistency of information shared along the patient journey. We also wanted to engage the family to support the patient before and after surgery and decided to require that each patient has a ‘care partner’.” 

    The Virtua JRI team looked for technology to continuously engage patients and families, from on-boarding before surgery, to educating and guiding them from discharge through recovery.  The tool needed to be actionable, collecting essential information from the patient (i.e. concerns, pain levels) and informing Nurse Navigators when patients fall off track.

    Virtua JRI chose to implement a Connected CarePath for Total Joint Replacement from Wellbe, a solution provider in Madison, Wisconsin. Working closely with Wellbe, Virtua customized their CarePath with their own health history and sleep apnea surveys, scheduling and care plan content (delivered via “CareCards”). 

    Patient Journey 

    PATIENT CREATES CARECIRCLE ON WELLBEDuring the initial visit to the surgeon’s office, patient Patty is given information about Wellbe, a personalized care plan for her pre-and post-surgical journey. She signs up with the Nurse Navigator and receives a Welcome email. Patty shares this information and invites her family ‘Care Partner’ to join her CareCircle to access her resources.
     
    Pre- Surgery: Beginning 4-6 weeks prior to surgery, Patty views a care plan with a personalized set of “CareCards” explaining the operation and process to successfully prepare including preadmissions testing and health clearance forms. She receives a “CareCard” introduction to her Nurse Navigator. Every CareCard is delivered “from” her doctor or another member of her care team to motivate compliance. Patty receives reminder messages and checklist items leading up to the surgery and can refer to any completed CareCards in the “library” such as “How to prepare for the day of surgery.”  

    “Our patients really like the library feature. Before we launched the Wellbe platform, patients were given a Joint Replacement booklet. Now patients and families have all the surgery information at their fingertips.  Patients traveling to our Institute can prepare for their surgery by viewing videos instead of attending an in-person class,” adds Gillespie.  

    Post –Surgery: Within Wellbe, Patty views discharge information such as symptoms to watch for and completes surveys so that her care team can manage her recovery. Patty’s Nurse Navigator monitors her “Progress Report” with required actions and contacts her with any concerns. 

    “We believe this post-surgery engagement is important to prevent readmissions by ensuring the patient understands how to take medications, manage pain and follow outpatient physical therapy,” Gillespie shares.
     
    Patient Engagement Results

    Since launching the Wellbe platform in December 2015, Virtua JRI has enrolled 700 patients.  Patients span every socio-economic level and range from 40- 90 years old, with the majority in their 70s. 

    “We are signing up 86% of our surgery patients which is much higher than we expected. The remaining patients either did not have an email address or didn’t have a friend or family member to help them,” explains Gillespie.
     
    Virtua is evaluating success based on a few factors. Through a Wellbe survey, they are measuring how prepared the patient feels using the platform. With Wellbe reporting, Virtua is also measuring the patient’s engagement and compliance with required CareCards.

    Patients have shared positive comments about their experience using the tool - “grateful for the support received”. Nurse Navigators have also provided feedback - the Wellbe platform has helped them be more efficient in their patient care. Through “one tool”, nurses are able to “organize and track patient progress and communicate with the rest of the team” (i.e. physician office, pre-admission testing department). 

    Virtua has received suggested enhancements such as “defining an end time for a patient to be on the platform” and removing the medication form since patients “already gave the medication list to my surgeon.” Virtua has also added a link to the “Virtua Orthopedic Endowment”, giving patients an opportunity to give back. 

    Future Opportunities 

    Virtua initially launched the Wellbe platform without tying it into their Electronic Medical Record. “We are considering integrating Wellbe into our EMR so that the patient’s surgical chart will be easily available on one site for our Nurse Navigator.”   

    “Wellbe provides a key to patient engagement by keeping them engaged and participating towards a successful surgical journey. Virtua is determining where we can use this tool in other service lines such as Spine, Bariatric, Oncology and Maternity, which are all education-intensive clinical episodes.” 

    “This program aligns with our vision in keeping our focus on the patient /family experience, and provides us with an opportunities to participate in their surgical journey”, Gillespie concludes.  

     

    UnitedHealthcare Empowers Caregivers with Personalized Tools for Guidance, eCommerce & Connection

    At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, UnitedHealthcare launched Solutions for Caregivers, an online program that provides resources for caregivers and their family; personalized information, a discounted marketplace of products and services and care circle community for ongoing support.

    UnitedHealthcare is addressing the evolving needs of a large population of caregivers. According to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP Public Policy Institute, an estimated 43.5 million adults have provided unpaid care during the prior 12 months,  34.2 million (79%) offering care for an adult age 50+.

    “Many caregivers are searching for relevant resources but often don’t know where to start. Solutions for Caregivers addresses the needs of family caregivers through case management services and online resources that help caregivers more effectively care for their loved ones,” shares Dr. Richard Migliori, EVP and Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealth Group.

    Caregiving Burden

    According to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report, caregivers spend an average of 24 hours each week helping their loved ones. Many caregivers experience their own physical, emotional and financial strain as a result of their caregiving role. Half of the caregivers indicated “they had no choice in taking on their caregiving responsibilities,” and 40% report being in high-burden situations. When asked about their health, 17% said ”it is fair or poor”, compared with 10% of the general adult population.

    Many caregivers (60%) admit they had to make a workplace accommodation, such as taking time off or reducing work hours. On average, caregivers assist with “4.2 out of 7 Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs),” including transportation, grocery/other shopping, or housework. Most caregivers (84%) report an interest in receiving more information such as “keeping their loved one safe at home” and “managing their own stress.”  

    UnitedHealthcare has conducted extensive research with family caregivers to understand their challenges around caring for a loved one. Vidya Raman-Tangella, M.D., head of UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation Center of Excellence, explains, “We heard that each journey is a ‘unique’ and ‘personal’ experience. Family caregivers are often not prepared and do not know where to begin, which causes anxiety. Some caregivers need support recognizing ‘what is good’ when making decisions for their loved one. Finally, UnitedHealthcare heard that the family caregivers did not want to feel alone and wanted to work together with others in their care circle.”

    CAREGIVERS MARKETPLACEVidya and her innovation team set out to define a solution based on these caregiver needs. The team started with a portal front end to house a set of tools to help caregivers:

    Personalized Information – educational articles and videos that are tailored to the specific medical issues and needs of the care recipient and caregiver. UnitedHealthcare’s articles support the topics requested by caregivers (i.e. safety, stress). Users can save an article for future reference or share with others (i.e. siblings, health coach and clinician).

    Marketplace – set of vetted discounted products and services to support the caregiver and care recipient’s conditions and challenges. Product categories include “assistive products”, “home monitoring”, “home safety” and “medication management.” Service categories span “financial”, “in-home care”, “nutrition” and “transportation”. Regarding “nutrition,” caregivers can order meals that are tailored to the care recipient’s health condition (i.e. low salt, low sugar). UnitedHealthcare’s marketplace is designed to support caregivers for activities they undertake on a regular basis, including transportation, shopping and house work. 

    One service option is for a “Care Manager” who can help the family plan or respond to care recipient/caregiver needs, via online, phone or consult (secure messaging). Some caregivers may have a health plan benefit that covers the care manager service, while others have the option of paying the hourly fee.

    Currently, UnitedHealthcare has mostly national companies and a growing number of regional and local offerings in the marketplace. Based on the care recipient’s zip code, there may be a national service provider such as CareLinx, which offers services in the specified geography.

    Community Support – centralized place where caregivers and friends of a loved one can connect, share insights and concerns (i.e. how does mom look today), add and view medical appointments & meetings on a daily/weekly/monthly calendar, post and assign tasks (i.e. a ride to the doctor’s appointment) and access a library of documents such as medication lists, doctors list, health records and a living will. The solution serves as a repository of this information, however there is no integration with the EMR or any clinical information 

    Caregivers can also invite others, such as clinicians and in-home caregivers, and enable them to securely access information and communicate on a common platform.

    Although other companies promote online caregiver offerings today, UnitedHealthcare has designed a 'personalized caregiver solution'. During the sign-up process, the caregiver creates a profile by responding to set of questions about the care recipient; relationship, age, zip code, conditions and challenges. The caregiver also indicates their own health conditions and challenges. 

    For example, when family caregiver Carla responds that her 86-year-old mother has hypertension and diabetes and is dealing with mobility issues, and she (the caregiver) is experiencing depression, Carla will see articles, videos, products and services that are relevant to both of their needs.

    Caregiver Solution Pilot

    UnitedHealthcare is providing the Solutions for Caregivers program to large employers at no additional cost for employees to access the online services. As of January 2016, Solutions for Caregivers is being promoted to over 1 million employees. Currently, Solutions for Caregivers is also accessible to the public. For people using the employer-sponsored version, the company can cover the costs associated with care management services, enabling caregivers to access more holistic support. In comparison, people accessing the consumer site, or instances where the employer has not purchased the additional care management services, can pay out of pocket for these resources. In both versions, caregivers can access customized content, shop from the marketplace, and use the myCommunity resources.

    UnitedHealthcare has received positive comments about their Caregiver solution, that it “saves time” and they would “recommend it to other caregivers”.  To date, UnitedHealthcare has also noticed that many users are in the early stages of caregiving.

    Future Solutions for Caregivers

    “While it will take the rest of 2016 to build the volume of users, we will continue to grow our marketplace through strategic partnerships with product and service companies. We are especially interested in technology solutions for caregivers”, shares Dr. Vidya Raman-Tangella.

    UnitedHealthcare is planning to leverage all customer service touch points to identify caregivers who are currently moving along the care journey or will be on the journey soon as potential users of the solution.

    “Throughout the year, we will learn how this program is delivering value to caregivers and care recipients. With Boomers turning 70, we will be particularly interested to see how our offering will be used to support the boomers as they retire as well care for their loved ones”, explains Dr. Raman-Tangella.

    “This program and others from UnitedHealthcare are making it easier and more convenient to people to take charge of their health and the health of their loved ones. By using technology and personalized resources, we are helping people to live healthier lives”, Dr. Migliori concludes.

    Ochsner Leverages Retail, Connected Health Tools & Apple Watch to Engage Consumers

    Dr. Milani with longtime patient Andres Rubiano, pilots Apple WatchDuring the last eighteen months, the Ochsner Health System has moved into new territory, meeting consumers where they are, from their OBar, a retail genius format to patient hypertension pilots with the Apple Watch to drive behavior change. 

    As an innovative healthcare organization, Ochsner, a large Louisiana- based health network with 12 hospitals, 40 clinicians and an a 1,000+ Physician Group Practice, is committed to helping consumers use mobile and wearable connected health tools for self- management and care collaboration

    It all started back in late 2013 when Dr. Richard Milani, now Chief Clinical Transformation Officer and Vice Chair of Cardiology at Ochsner, observed what was going on nationally, a tremendous growth of mobile phone and smart apps. “At the time, I noticed that a lot of people didn’t know much about the health apps and wearables or were fearful about how to use them. My background is in preventive medicine”, explains Dr. Milani. “I saw a powerful opportunity for Ochsner to empower consumers to use mobile technology to enhance their health, opening the door to favorable behavior change.”

    OBar, Retail Genuis Bar with Apps & Devices  

    After more than nine months of planning, Ochsner launched their OBar in early 2014 at the new Ochsner Center for Primary Care and Wellness. The OBar is located in the lobby to attract people walking by as well as patients. The retail store is welcoming with digital tablets loaded with vetted mobile apps to support consumer health, “non-clinical” genius types to answer questions, provide guidance and sell discounted devices (i.e. Activity Tracker, wireless scale, blood pressure cuff and glucometer). “We created this retail setting to show people how to make themselves healthier on their own, independent of their health system. We also felt that as a health system, we could show you which health apps were good and can help you get the app loaded on your phone to begin using it.”

    Doctor gives patient RX for App, directs to OBar Ochsner wanted to go further, tying the OBar into their primary care services. Dr. Milani and his team created a prescription pad for their PCP offices, which lists the types of available apps and devices. The doctor simply checks off, hands the patient a prescription pad sheet and directs him downstairs to the OBar. Since this extension into primary care, clinicians have heard back from their patients about how the apps and devices have helped them make better health choices around activity, diet and their disease. Patient feedback has motivated these clinicians to tell others about the OBar.

    Dr. Milani went on to explain that the OBar initiative is not designed to be a profit center. As a non-profit, Ochsner is most interested in helping people stay healthy and has invested in a retail format as a way to be sticky to attract and keep consumers coming back. As with any retail store, visitors walk in and out which makes it challenging to capture and measure the value that consumers have gained from using these apps and devices. Through anecdotes, however, Ochsner has heard about the weight loss, the knowledge about “buying the right foods” and the ability to better “understand my disease”, which has helped many consumers visiting the OBar.

    Apple HealthKit & Epic Integration for Connected Health

    Ochsner was the first hospital to integrate the Apple HealthKit with their Epic system. This integration powers their Connected Health programs. While the patient is still in the hospital, she is given a tablet to answer a detailed questionnaire. Hypertensive patients, for example, are asked sodium consumption, medication adherence and affordability, social situations, depression, physical activity, BMI, sleep, Health literacy, Patient activation and more. Ochsner believes that patients respond more truthfully to the tablet.

    “We are phenotyping patients based on their specific disease and psycho- social measures that are fed into algorithms to personalize the care plan and decision support tools”, Dr. Milani explains. “Ochsner started with Heart Failure in early 2014, with a program for CHF patients to avoid readmissions through weight monitoring. In February 2015, we launched our Hypertension Digital Medicine Program, monitoring blood pressure and heart rate. “With the HealthKit/Epic integration, we are able to use the patient’s unique responses to the survey combined with the monitoring data to tailor the intervention to the individual”, adds Dr. Milani. Ochsner care providers monitor the dashboard to determine which patients are the priority today and to see the task check list for action.

    The national data reflects that currently, only 50% of individuals diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) have their blood pressure under control, or at goal.  Lack of achieving goal blood pressure means that these individuals have significantly higher rates of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. Ochsner has enrolled only patients that have failed to meet control blood pressure goals, and using this integrative approach, has achieved more than 60% control rates within 2 months.

    Dr. Milani and his team wanted the patient to see his progress in the program and designed an insightful report, which visually displays results and progress, quantifies risk and describes how the patient can reduce that risk. This program report is available in the patient portal and is also mailed monthly to the patient. “We decided to mail the report because we wanted the patient to have the opportunity to share the report with their family and to have the discussion about how they are doing in controlling their blood pressure in order to strengthen every day support”, admits Dr. Milani.

    In addition to the program report, program participants receive ongoing mobile texts for motivation and encouragement.

    Ochsner closely tracks, monitors and has presented very positive patient outcomes of their Integrated & Connected Health programs. One interesting insight that Dr. Milani has shared is that these participants are more successful in the beginning when they have the OBar support. “A Hypertensive patient can go to our OBar, get the program app downloaded on her phone and a demonstration about how to use the devices. This is especially important with older patients who may not feel comfortable getting set up over the phone. We realize the importance of providing this face to face technology support for our Connected Health program and are adding OBars to our other regions”, confirms Dr. Milani. Ochsner is planning to launch three more retail OBars by the end of the year.

    Apple Watch for Patient Pilot

    Dr. Milani views the Apple Watch as a behavioral change tool. As a foundation, this is a wearable, with many non-health features which captures the consumer’s attention and motivates consumer engagement. It takes the consumer’s focus off the phone and onto the wrist to communicate time as well as personal and professional messages.

    Ochsner is designing a study to understand the potential for changing the consumer’s behavior around health. They will be enrolling hundreds of hypertensive patients with the goal of increasing physician activity and improving medication adherence.

    Dr. Milani mentioned two of the health related Apple Watch apps which he plans to incorporate to help patients achieve the pilot goals. “There is a WebMD app which is a great medication reminder. It taps you on your wrist and shows you the picture of the pill that you need to take at that time. This is important because 50% of patients with chronic disease do not take their medications as prescribed. The second built-in app is for physical activity which can be used to set goals. It will tap me and remind me to stand up every 50 minutes. I can also see how I am doing against my activity goals”, shares Dr. Milani.

    For the Apple Watch pilot, Ochsner will compare the outcomes and behavior change for patients in their Hypertension Digital Medicine Program with a subset of patients who also have the Apple Watch medication and activity reminders and tracking. Throughout the pilot, Dr. Milani and his team will be closely monitoring whether and how these apps impact positive patient behavior change. 

    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.