Seamless Patient Engagement for Effective Data Collection and Better Health Outcomes
Better Healthcare: An Aligned Mission
Human Health is a universal element that we can all relate to and no matter which country we live in or culture we come from it is the one thing that binds us in an aligned mission. That mission being the goal of improving Healthcare delivery in order to improve the overall Health of people, help the sick recover faster and to find more effective cures for chronic diseases. Healthcare is a very complex field, and due to it’s complexity the Healthcare industry is slow to adopt to change and has a reluctance to modify methods of Healthcare delivery. For example, recent improvements in the fields of information technology systems, Health data science and medical automation is only now being tested and applied to the Healthcare industry. This is happening at much slower rates of adoption when compared to industries such as finance and retail.
But over the past decade or so there is a major shift slowly taking place in the Healthcare industries around the world. The historic, Reactive Systems of Healthcare delivery are being finally questioned and more Proactive systems are starting to appear. We are all very familiar with the Reactive Healthcare model, where questions like these are not unfamiliar:
1. Why is it that we only see the Doctor when we are feeling physically ill?
2. Once diagnosed with a medical condition why do we need to physically revisit the Doctor or Hospital for follow up checks on if the medication is working?
3. Why does it take so long to accurately diagnose and manage chronic disease conditions like Hypertension (it can often take months)?
4. Why can’t I talk to my Doctor when I’m at home or work or whenever I’m feeling unwell?
This Reactive Healthcare system we are all familiar with and are used to is actually starting to cause massive inefficiencies in Patient outcome management around the world and even though more proactive methods are seen as highly risky and expensive, private and public Healthcare systems around the world have started investigating how technology can usher in proactive Healthcare techniques to improve Patient Health outcomes and provide cost efficiencies for Healthcare providers and governments.
ITHEUM Health is working to create the next generation of proactive Healthcare delivery tools. We see a future where Healthcare Happens Everywhere, not just when you are in physical consults with your Doctor in a medical Clinic or Hospital. In this article we will discuss how proactive Patient Engagement can improve the Health outcomes of people as well as improve cost efficiencies for Healthcare providers.
I will use the following key terms in the article:
Healthcare Providers: Refers to anyone responsible in providing Healthcare services to Patients (Medical Clinics, Hospital, Medical specialist etc.)
Healthcare Payer: The organisation or entity responsible to pay for Healthcare once its delivered to a Patient (Insurance company, Government in the case of Public Health)
The Problem: Reactive Healthcare Systems result in a Lack of Actionable Data
Let’s take a few seconds and think about the last time you visited the Doctor or the last time you took in a family member to visit the Doctor. The consultation would have started off by the Doctor reviewing your medical history in the medical records software, they will then ask you to explain to them about the problem you have come in for today. As you explain your symptoms and issues, they would proceed to log in comments into the medical record software. They will then proceed to ask you some follow up questions or take medical measurements like your Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, Blood sugar or Weight. If they feel like they have enough information to give you a medical diagnosis they proceed to explain the condition and write you a medical script for medicine. If they do not have enough information to make a diagnosis they will most likely request you for additional tests like a Blood test or EKG test (An EKG is used to check for signs of heart Disease) before a diagnosis is made.
To summarise the above process, we can say that the Doctor is collecting Data in order to assist them to make a Diagnosis. If they do not have enough data to make a diagnosis in a single visit they will request for more data via a laboratory test or ask you to come back to see them again to collect more data. They may also recommend you see a specialist Doctor, who then collects more data from you. Today, this process of data collection is only done when you are physically present in a Medical Clinic, Laboratory or Hospital and often times data collection can go on for months before a diagnosis is made. For example, in order to diagnose someone with High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) the Doctor may take a few months of repeat visits to be able to identify a pattern of increasing Blood Pressure before then can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Now let’s imagine that you have been diagnosed with High Blood Pressure (Hypertension), the Doctor now needs to come up with a treatment plan that works for you so they can manage your Health condition. They usually start off with a specific drug and dosage, they request you to follow this combination for a few weeks and come in for a repeat assessment where they will collect more data to assess if the treatment plan is working or needs to be changed. In most cases, this cycle of drug/dosage combination and repeat visits for assessment can continue for months before the Doctor has enough data to concretely say that your Health condition of Hypertension is now managed.
As you can see, this entire reactive process of diagnosing a Patient and then managing their Health condition can go on for months or even years. The reason being that the Doctor needs to collect enough actionable data to assist them to make a clinical diagnosis. In the traditional, reactive system we are all used to the Doctors are only willing to collect data during Hospital, laboratory or medical Clinic visits where you need to take time to be physically present.
Most people have busy lives with work and family and are often not happy about physical visits. These same people are also now used to more technological advanced channels of communication, and they don’t see the need to be physically present to share data. Imagine if you had to physically visit the Bank each time you had to check your finances or make a bill payment? Although this banking experience was the norm just 10 years ago, it’s almost unheard of today as we do all our banking in our own personal time and devices. People are also expecting this experience from Healthcare but unfortunately this is not the case.
The outcome of the existing Reactive Healthcare systems as discussed above are basically causing delays in the collection of actionable Health data. These delays are impacting the Patient’s overall Health as they have to wait longer to be diagnosed and treated (hence causing more damage to their bodies). These delays are also causing massive cost issues for Healthcare providers and payers (insurance companies or government paying for public Health services), for example, the longer it takes to control a Patient ’s Health condition the more likely the Patient might end up in a Hospital or require expensive treatment procedures.
So it’s obvious we need to fix this ineffective means of data collection, and this realisation is becoming more and more obvious each day for all parties involved in the Healthcare experience.
The Reactive model is highly ineffective for both the Patient as well as the Medical Provider. It results in negative Health outcomes for a Patient as treatment is delayed and results in high costs to the Healthcare system due to bad utilization of Medical resources.
Proposed Solution: Enable new Sources of Actionable Data
Let’s now look at a potential solution to the above mentioned problem, to do that we need to ask the following question:
Why does this reactive pattern of collecting Health data from Patients continue? Especially when the negative outcome of doing so is becoming very obvious. Our research in this area points to the following key gaps:
1) Healthcare Providers generally do not accept data generated outside physical Clinics or Hospitals because they don’t trust the quality of data.
2) Healthcare Providers feel that coordinating remote collection of data will add more effort to their already busy workloads.
3) Patients don’t feel confident in self-monitoring due to a lack of Health education and lack of motivation.
** For the sake of topic focus, we will leave out 2 other reasons we identified in our findings. Which are the security and privacy aspects of remote Health data collection and storage and the added liability and responsibility Healthcare Providers inherit from having more data to monitor. We will discuss this in a future article.
At ITHEUM Health, we are focusing on building a platform of tools that solve the above three gaps. We feel that (if executed correctly) effective remote Patient monitoring can be achieved using a seamless Patient Engagement experience. If we can build an automated system that can continue the conversation between Healthcare Provider and Patient in-between Physical visits we can slowly unlock new sources of Health data and once these new data points flow in, they can be merged with data collected by the Doctor during physical examinations and paint a more holistic view on a Patient’s Health journey. In theory, more actionable data would equal faster decision making ability and better Health outcomes for Patients. This in turn would result in cost efficiencies for Healthcare systems.
Our software targets the above mentioned three gaps by offering a Patient Engagement platform with the following key features:
1) To address the distrust in remote Health data, we provide a way for Healthcare Providers to create structured remote data collection programs tailored to Health goals. Each program enforces some guard rails on:
a. What kind of data needs to be collected and when does it need to be collected.
b. What instructions need to be followed for data to be considered valid.
These structured programs are then automatically enforced by our Patient Engagement platform. Patients are first educated on correct data collection techniques and general Health condition guidance. The goal of our platform is to enable the Patient to self-monitor with education and structure and this in turn improves the quality of the data.
2) To address the concern Healthcare Providers have in extra workload that may be created by coordinating remote data collection campaigns, we provide a complete a autonomous mechanism in the form of an intelligent, automated Health Coach who coordinates data collection activities with minimum disruption to Healthcare Providers. Data is collected remotely, assessed for irregular patterns and then reconnected back into any Electronic Medical software that Clinics and Hospitals already run for the Doctors to assess whenever they choose. The goal is to be unobtrusive to a Doctor’s existing workflow and yet make new sources of data available for better clinical decisions.
3) To address the lack of Patient motivation in self-monitoring, we empower the Patients with unparalleled visibility on their Health data. They have full control to view their data and see trends and invite family and friends to also view their progress. We also “Gamify” the experience by rewarding the Patient for program compliance and adherence. The Patient is motivated as they see progress and are rewarded for following through on their tasks and this in turn increases the amount of quality data being generated and shared back to the Healthcare Providers.
The points discussed above (although explained as features from our software platform) are actually a hypothesis on how the problem of ineffective, reactive Healthcare can be solved with an effective Patient Engagement solution. But this hypothesis requires a mental shift in thinking and we do see that shift in the mental attitude also developing, for example, recent studies by Deloitte and Accenture show that:
We can conclude that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from Reactive to Proactive Healthcare. Patients are ready to become engaged and Medical systems are ready to engage remotely with their Patient base. This leads to an environment where Seamless Patient Engagement can be the answer for Effective Data Collection and Better Health Outcomes.
“Within 5 years, the majority of clinically relevant data will be collected outside of the clinical setting” (gregory abowd, AMIA keynote)
Healthcare: A Brighter Future
To conclude, we discussed the current reactive state of Healthcare delivery around the world. We saw how it’s operating inefficiencies result in a lack of actionable Health data which in turn result in negative Health outcomes for Patients and inefficient management of global Healthcare resources and budgets. We then discussed a viable solution to the problem via seamless Patient engagement to enable remote data collection in order to drive a more proactive Healthcare experience. We then gave a hypothesis on how the gaps to make this proactive movement a reality can be solved and saw that the world is mentally ready for a shift from reactive Healthcare to proactive Healthcare.
We firmly believe that Healthcare as we know it is changing and we welcome this change, because ultimately this means that those who are closest to us will live healthier, live with less pain and live longer and this mission is something worth working towards. We started this article with the statement Health is the one thing that binds us in an aligned mission, and this alignment needs to continue.
“There is nothing that touches the human soul more than your Health” (Bill Mcdermott, CEO, SAP)