Driven by changes in reimbursement policy, patient satisfaction has become an increasingly important success metric for healthcare providers. The recently launched Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey assesses patient satisfaction in Medicare patients after an inpatient hospitalization. HCAHPS is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care.
The most recent HCAHPS survey involved more than 4,000 hospitals and 3,000,000 patients. While there are some bright spots in the survey results, there are other areas that leave “room for improvement,” especially when it comes to receiving adequate information about medications, and care transitions.
Beyond providing patient satisfaction, some providers have begun to also measure patient engagement. Ian Worden of LifeNexus notes that “patient experience is about perceptions and patient engagement is about actions and behaviors. A patient can conceivably be satisfied with their health care experience while having minimal engagement.”
But why does patient engagement deserve our attention when many hospitals are struggling just to achieve patient satisfaction? Because, simply put, the healthcare industry is one of the few—if not the only—industries in the world where the ultimate goal is to prevent repeat customers. This means that although patient satisfaction is critical in terms of the actual care experience, the real long-term measure of healthcare success revolves around whether or not patients will adhere to their regimes after discharge, which hinges on patient engagement. Achieving patient engagement is easier said than done, especially because the least-engaged patients tend to be the ones who show up most often for inpatient services.
However, with the recent proliferation of digital technologies, we now have an incredible opportunity to take patient engagement to new levels—delivering a meaningful and cost-effective impact over time. Here are the 5 key technologies and platforms that are poised to digitally transform healthcare by dramatically increasing patient engagement and action.
1). Wearables and sensors
There will be two types of devices—those that are patient-adopted and those that are physician-prescribed. Patient-adopted wearables (FitBits, Apple Watches, etc) will provide robust personal health data that is meaningful to the patients. Physicians will not want to know your food diary or how many Nike Fuel points someone may average daily.
Even simple, non-digital methods of tracking health data can affect behavior, like simply writing down your body weight daily. Wearables make it easier to collect health data, and the best approaches use gamification techniques to incent and reward positive behavior. For those who are less tech-savvy and engaged, the simplicity of the FitBit may make it the best choice. For those more involved and engaged, a smart watch like the Apple Watch can provide a depth and breadth of health tracking that’s amazing.
Some of the new physician-driven mobile health devices, like the AliveCor Mobile ECG and other Remote Patient Monitoring platforms, will enhance the ability of physicians to care for patients and increase productivity.
2). Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is forecasted to grow to $5 billion by 2020 (iData Research). The potential of remote patient monitoring and telehealth has been noted for some time, and much of the technology to enable telehealth already exists. What prevents broader adoption are inconsistent payment models and reimbursement hurdles. The lack of clarity on what types of services will get reimbursed, and at what level, is a real deterrent for physicians and healthcare systems. Lack of interoperability and standards across systems also poses serious hurdles. There are over 500 Electronic Health Record platforms today, and for the most part, they are not interoperable. Imagine a banking system where ATMs are not interoperable! Luckily, companies like dbMotion are tackling this problem and enabling collaboration across EHRs in the cloud.
Telehealth will continue to face standards and reimbursement challenges, but simpler remote health monitoring is beginning to flourish. Platforms like AirStrip One®, Propeller Health, and Welch Allyn’s mVSM are enabling real-time data collection and healthcare interventions that can save lives and money. According to a recent study by Accenture, digital health solutions helped save $6 billion last year alone.
3). Caregiver Collaboration
Often overlooked in discussions surrounding digital health, caregiver collaboration is poised to make dramatic progress over the next several years as digital platforms and sensors become ubiquitous. For HCPs and healthcare providers, solutions such as AirStrip One® connect clinicians with patient data and with each other, across the care continuum. By enabling interoperability across diverse systems and data sources, AirStrip ONE® is a catalyst for care pathway and workflow innovation across diverse service lines and care settings.
For patients and their families, MyCareConnect’s Blue Loop is a web and mobile tool for children with diabetes and other chronic conditions. The platform provides care coordination among family, school, and health care providers. Everything is consolidated in one location, in the cloud, where caregivers can communicate, store dosage information, upload documents, and enter test results. As activity happens, caregivers are instantly notified via email or text message.
The current focus on patient satisfaction is undoubtedly a worthwhile metric for our healthcare system to measure against. However, rapidly evolving and increasingly powerful digital technologies are providing the means for healthcare systems to move beyond satisfaction and deliver meaningful and long-term patient engagement. Ultimately, it is these higher levels of engagement surrounding recovery, wellness, and prevention which will lead to lasting improvements to our overall health outcomes.