Healthcare's next big leap — The Smart Home

Working as a bedside nurse for eight years, Kim Lewis, RN, BSN, cared for countless patients whose health deteriorated due to insufficient follow-up after they were discharged. Patients would come in with high blood sugars and high hemoglobin A1Cs, which indicated they struggled to effectively manage their blood sugar levels.

"It was always so concerning when patients would return so quickly after a discharge as a result of noncompliance or not having a clear understanding of how to manage their diabetes at home. They were so sick, and it would take a lot to get their blood sugars stable again," says Ms. Lewis, who is now global clinical health solution manager for Lenovo.

Fortunately, in the time since Ms. Lewis left the bedside nearly three and a half years ago, advances in care and technology offer many options for patients, family members and providers to assist with managing and monitoring blood sugars remotely.

"There have been huge advancements in technology that have changed the way patients receive care so they can connect to a team outside of the four walls of the hospital. The ability to monitor patients more closely in their home allows for providers to intervene when there are reasons for concern," says Ms. Lewis.

To drive sustainable patient outcomes and prevent avoidable readmissions, Lenovo is working on the next major innovation to hit the healthcare arena — the Smart Home.

The many layers of the Smart Home
Although still in development, Lenovo is building the Smart home framework by leveraging Smart devices in the patient's home that will allow a patient to readily communicate data that is then provided to their care team in real time. Working with a partner, Lenovo's focus is on driving earlier insights, providing actionable data and improving outcomes.

Lenovo wants to use the same technology other industries use every day to impact patients' lives. With the technology, patients can be connected to care in the comfort of their own home.

Lenovo collaborated with Amazon to launch the Lenovo Smart Assistant, which includes a digital personal assistant with Amazon Alexa cloud-based voice services. Working with a partner, Lenovo can help health organizations create journey maps and care plans specific to patients' conditions. With the skill integration, the patient would be able to provide voice data called "utterances." The voice data is then converted to text and the technology can document this information. Providers and healthcare organizations can also write specific logic to escalate values that may fall outside of a specific patient's ideal range.

As it leverages technology for such advancements, Lenovo feels that thinking differently about the Smart Home is important for industry leaders. Technology can transform the home into a setting of care where providers can collect and escalate data with the ability to change patient outcomes and improve quality, which is the center of healthcare's mission. The patient too is an important player in this process; they use the available technology to select advocates, such as a son or a neighbor, that the patient would want to be alerted if there were any concerns regarding the patient's health at that point in time.

A patient's care team also includes a program manager who is able to follow up via a phone call with the patient when needed. In this model, everyone involved in the patient's care team, from their clinicians to their family members, can track a patient's progress and ensure he/she is taking the correct steps to maintain his/her health.

For instance, a patient with type 2 diabetes that has been enrolled in a program can tell Lenovo Smart Assistant their blood sugar reading, and that data can be uploaded to their care team in real time. If the patient has not reported a blood sugar reading by a certain time, the Smart Assistant will provide the patient a reminder about the missed reading.

"If no blood sugar is provided by a certain time specified by the patient's program manager and health organization, a text message may be sent to a family member," Ms. Lewis adds.

The notification escalates if the device still does not receive a response about the missed blood sugar reading, which Ms. Lewis notes helps educate other resources in the patient's care team who may be able to step in and engage with the patient to get that reading.

"The value in being able to utilize this functionality is for providers to be able to individualize the care plans for their patients at home. Providing individual goals, expectations and tasks for patients to complete at home allows for patients to have a clear understanding of the tasks they need to do in order to stay as healthy as possible," Ms. Lewis says. "Providing a mechanism to engage other resources invested in the care of the patient such as a family member and/or care nurse allow for them to intervene and catch changes in the patient that otherwise may go unnoticed."

Tackling technology's obstacles head-on
Lenovo is collaborating with their partners to remember the providers and program directors when developing their solutions. To avoid contributing to alert fatigue and the copious amount of data providers face each day, Lenovo is working on a technological solution that alerts providers when a number falls out of a specified range. This allows providers to prioritize alerts and assess which patients need intervention at that point in time.

"By leveraging the health skills available to providers for their patients, providers are able to individualize journey maps and care plans that identify specific information that would trigger alerts," Ms. Lewis notes.

Technology companies should keep connectivity on the forefront of their minds when launching new digital tools since interoperability issues may impede a physician's likelihood of utilizing a device. A device is only as useful as its shelf life and dealing with technology's many nuances, such as inability to connect to other devices, may deter a physician from jumping on board.

"[Moving forward], caring for patients will extend beyond traditional brick and mortar settings. Providers and patients will be able to have individualized care plans and journey maps that address key areas of concern and risk," Ms. Lewis says. "Patients will be able to utilize advances in devices and connectivity to take a more active role in their wellness. And, providers will be able to engage with their patients differently, in a more personal way, with insights into the patient's tasks activities and care challenges."

While industry professionals have kinks to work out within the technology space, digital tools have transformed healthcare and will continue making way for individualized patient care. A patient's health far extends their physical symptoms and specific condition; it also entails their emotional and physical well-being. Moving forward, technology will increasingly integrate all factors driving a patient's health, especially as healthcare providers become more and more focused on the value versus volume of their care.

"We are thinking differently at Lenovo about devices, technology and connecting people. We see value in the overall user experience, which means making things easy, intuitive and personal," Ms. Lewis says.

Future technology will be personalized to each patient and integrate their preferences such as their favorite music into their overall health goals and care plans. Ms. Lewis notes technology in coming years will ideally have the potential to show users nearby restaurants with low-salt options or sugar-free desserts that abide by the specific dietary restrictions a patient's provider sets for them.

"To succeed in affecting patient outcomes, devices must be always on, always connected and always charged," Ms. Lewis says.

Lenovo Health is supporting a three-day innovation summit in partnership with Becker's Healthcare, from June 6-8. To learn more about this virtual opportunity, click here.

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