By Eric Gombrich – Healthcare globally and here in Canada is undergoing a massive transformation. Patients are becoming more engaged with their own healthcare and are looking to consumer technologies like tablets, smartphones and mobile applications (apps) to better manage their health outside the doctor’s office and in between visits.
According to a recent survey of 2,000 patients by Digitas Health, more than 50% of patients who suffer from a chronic disease are actively looking for new ways to manage their health and were very interested in incorporating medical devices and apps into their plan.
This demand should come as no surprise as most Canadians now rely on mobile phone apps for a wide variety of day-to-day activities including banking, shopping, communications and entertainment. In fact, there are now more than 100,000 apps available for health & wellness. The fact that Canadian patients want to take advantage of these mobile technologies to manage their health is a natural extension of the technology and experience Canadians have come to rely on.
Similarly, leading healthcare providers are also looking to new solutions that enhance shared decision making between doctors and patients, streamline interaction beyond the office visit, and embrace the patient and their personal network of support in taking a more active role in managing their condition (provided it is done in a controlled way that keeps the physician involved in the process).
After all, as healthcare organizations move to outcome-based and pay-for-performance plans that reward physicians for improved results, patient compliance with care plans become that much more crucial to a physician’s success. If managed properly, patients and their self-defined support networks can be a tremendously valuable resource to assist a practice in achieving improved outcomes at a lower cost.
For example, at the Black Creek Community Health Centre in Toronto, health coaches — under the guidance of the doctors — now use a mobile app to deliver a personalized health coaching program for patients living with Type II Diabetes. In collaboration with health coaches from York University’s Kinesiology program, physicians in the Health Centre are able to prescribe personalized wellness plans for their patients and monitor their progress. Patients enrolled in the program track their biometric measurements, meals and exercise using smartphones, and receive remote coaching to improve outcomes. Furthermore, they get the education, motivation and encouragement they need to sustain the behavior changes necessary to be well. The impact is profound for both patients and providers, including reducing HbA1c levels by as much as 2x insulin alone, with no additional effort by the physician.
Also underway at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, is “Passport to TRUST”, a new healthcare initiative that’s providing patients with their own interactive personal care plans or “passport”.
When given easily understandable personal care plans that they can share with those who are supporting them, patients are much more likely to comply with their physician’s recommendations. Combined with personal health coaching that provides them with the education, motivation and support they need to follow the plan and make sustainable life changes, outcomes are improved and the burden on our healthcare system is lessened; It’s being proven in Boston, and elsewhere. Best of all for physicians, those at Beth Israel are reporting significant reductions in phone calls to their practice, saving almost 3 hours per day.
In this mobilized, social-networking culture, patients have made it clear that they want a different level of service from providers, and options beyond the standard office visit and long waits between tests and follow-up appointments. Physicians who embrace properly designed solutions that enable them to deliver such services will see improved patient satisfaction, improved outcomes and improved operating efficiencies and financial performance.