Tech available, and on the way
Some of the available technologies supporting better patient care and adherence also help to connect patients with their physicians by enabling the patient to share data with clinicians. These include:
- apps that electronically organize a patient’s medication regimen with reminders of what to take when, along with explanations of what each one treats, its side effects and other such information;
- smart pillboxes, which use sensors and corresponding mobile apps to track whether and when patients take their medicines and to offer reminders (similar technologies exist for injectable drugs);
- and connected medical devices, such as glucose monitors and electronic scales, that can automatically send results to smartphones as well as organize and track the readings.
And more tech-based devices are on the way. One example is iSageRx, a mobile app for the automated titration of basal insulin. The app, released in May from a new digital health company called Amalgram, lets physicians use algorithms for dosing support and gives patients behavioral, clinical and educational support so they stay on track with their insulin.
Large healthcare organizations also are finding roles for technologies in patient care. For example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston is working on apps for intelligent personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
BIDMC has pilot programs in inpatient settings to determine how well the systems can respond to patient questions such as “What can I eat?” and “What’s my care plan today?”
And Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital is studying how remote patient monitoring technology can be used to treat patients at home instead of in the hospital.
Some patients diagnosed in the hospital’s emergency department with certain conditions, such as heart failure or pneumonia, receive high-tech monitoring equipment, including a biosensor that continuously streams patient vital signs for computer analysis.
“At a high level, providers are interested in leveraging technologies to engage patients differently [than they could previously],” says Blain Newton, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics, a healthcare IT research and standards organization affiliated with the Health Information and Management Systems Society.
Clinical & business returns
As healthcare moves further toward value-based reimbursement models, experts say using these technologies could have even greater potential to deliver both clinical and business returns.
For example, the federal government will use its Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to evaluate physicians based on quality measures and then provide financial bonuses or penalties in Medicare payments based on that score. The goal is to provide greater incentives to use technologies that help engage more in patients’ health outside the doctor office walls.
A 2016 Kaiser Permanente study concluded that member patients who had online access to their health information were more likely to participate in preventive measures, such as mammograms, diabetes screening and Pap smears than members not registered to use the online Patient Action Plan (oPAP), its web-based system that provides access to personalized health information and emails members with preventive care reminders.