5 ways mobile is moving mountains in patient engagement

From EMRs to wearables, transformative technologies are reshaping the way healthcare is delivered today.

And mobile devices are a critical cog in the modern healthcare machine: 90 percent of Americans now own a mobile device, and they spend an average of 43 minutes per month on those devices, compared with just 22 minutes at an average doctor's visit.

Mobile devices make information instantly available to far more people, integrating them with our daily lives more than traditional desktop computers ever did. In fact, for the first time, people are searching for information more on mobile devices than on laptops or desktops, according to Google.

With nearly all the information in the world just clicks away, more patients – especially those with chronic conditions – are lobbying for on-demand access to their personal medical information. These "consumer driven healthcare advocates" believe this transparency will arm them to better participate as an equal member of their care team.

Clinicians are also seeing the importance of mobile devices – not only to their patients, but as tools to help them deliver quality care in a more time and cost-efficient manner. According to a survey out of the 2015 HIMSS conference, 54% of those using mobile devices to engage with patients have seen cost-savings.

The rise of this collaborative approach to healthcare is one of the crucial steps in the journey toward a more time- and cost-efficient, value-based healthcare world. By utilizing mobile devices, which are already an ingrained part of people's everyday lives, clinicians can tailor delivery of care to more closely align with the modern patient's expectations, while also receiving data that has a real impact on outcomes.

Supporting ongoing, two-way conversations

The saturation of text messaging and social media has conditioned people to expect instantaneous communication. By deploying patient engagement technology, clinicians and patients can use mobile devices for secure, ongoing, two-way conversations that are more aligned with modern communication.

The ability to engage in an ongoing discussion can break down barriers, making patients more comfortable with physicians and transforming them into a true resource for health information. In addition to increased patient satisfaction, establishing ongoing communication can also lead to earlier identification of potential adverse health events.

Sharing tailored, bite-sized content

We live in a hyper-connected world that is measured in 140 characters, and marked by messages that disappear after 24 hours. Health content is no exception: Care information must be delivered in small, digestible chunks relevant to patients and accessible anywhere, anytime.

Technology lets healthcare organizations share this educational content at the touch of a button, and to customize it to each phase of every patient's specific healthcare journey. Have a diabetes patient who has just been discharged from the hospital after a life-threatening rise in blood sugar? Serve them with one low glycemic recipe a day, and weekly facts on what lifestyle factors are most likely to create a spike in their insulin levels. By using content to engage patients on a regular basis, clinicians can help proactively prevent readmissions and earn the trust of patients.

Remote monitoring

The number of hours available to engage with patients is often severely impacted by the number of hours it takes to chart all the information from a visit. While patients may get less than 30 minutes of their clinician's time, a physician can spend up to a third of a workday charting. Patient engagement technology allows physicians to reclaim some of those hours by making it easier to monitor patients from afar.

In addition to patient-provided health reports, HIPAA compliant monitoring devices allow physicians to monitor heart rate, blood glucose and other biometrics. In doing so, clinicians can spot health events and address them before they lead to a costly hospital visit.

Providing access to real-time data

Patients and providers are both hungry for real-time data – and patient engagement technology can provide it via mobile devices.

For clinicians, the ability to answer patient questions, check in and conduct health visits via mobile devices provides a stream of data that can be collected and analyzed on an ongoing basis. These modern technologies not only inform healthcare providers, they help save time by eliminating many of the hours spent manually charting, faxing records and hand-entering medical data.

By utilizing data that is instant and self-reported, combined with data from sensors and devices, physicians can not only take a look at an individual's health, but also begin to determine population-level analysis, helping to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

For patients, this technology can integrate with some EMRs and other health information systems to provide a more complete picture of their health. Enabling patients' access to their information after days, instead of months, enables them to feel a greater satisfaction with their physician and their quality of care.

Providing new ways to execute telehealth visits

Many healthcare systems are currently executing telehealth visits via phone call, which can seem impersonal and take up man hours. With mobile devices, clinicians can execute these virtual visits in a way that enables the patient to see the face of their doctor (making the visit feel more real) and connect with physicians that might be out of state, while clinicians save money and resources. In fact, most clinicians can actually use telehealth to bring more dollars in the door, without impacting patient satisfaction.

With CMS now including virtual visits for care management as billable CPT code services, facilities are able to check in with more patients more often. A combination use of these codes could generate around $200 per patient in incremental revenue, without degrading patient experience and satisfaction.

Serving as a catalyst in the shift toward value-based care, the use of mobile devices by both patients and clinicians will continue to evolve the way care is delivered.

To stay relevant and solvent in this new world, healthcare organizations must start looking now for technologies that truly integrate with the mobile lifestyle of patients, while also delivering quality, easy-to-access data for physicians.

John Smithwick is the CEO of RoundingWell. He co-founded RoundingWell in 2011 following four years at Nashville's Healthways, where he led the design effort for their web-based disease and lifestyle management product offerings. Prior to his work at Healthways, he worked in product management at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. and in technology strategy consulting with Accenture in Boston, Mass. A graduate of the University of Richmond, he holds a master's of business administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

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