How to Use Connected Health Technology to Improve Care

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Using technology like smartphones can improve patient outcomes.
Using technology like smartphones can improve patient outcomes.

« SPECIAL REPORT »
Joan K. Bardsley, MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, discusses a General Session outlining how health care providers can motivate and help patients achieve better outcomes using technology.

NEW ORLEANS — At AADE 2015, the American Association of Diabetes Educators' annual meeting, Kamal Jethwani, MD, MPH, spoke about engaging patients by using connected health technology. He reminded us that technology has reinvented our lives.

As an example, Jethwani, who is senior director of Connected Health Innovation for Partners HealthCare, and assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, said people check smartphones about 150 times per day. Yet, health care has remained unchanged in many ways.

To demonstrate the use of technology, the audience was able to send in questions via Twitter that were answered in real time.

Jethwani said that technology needs to make health care convenient for patients. Technology is an enabler, and the focus must still be on the patient. This can lead to improved engagement, outcomes and efficiency when assessing care and workflow.

He described a model for the use of technology that can be applied to many disease entities. First, data need to be collected from and about the patient. Second, the data must be relevant to the patient. Third, the patient needs to understand what the data mean and to then make choices about individual health care interventions. As for the health care provider, he or she must understand how to motivate patients to make the correct choices.

Kamal Jethwani, MD, MPHKamal Jethwani, MD, MPH

What's important to remember is that not all patients are the same. What motivates one patient may be different than what motivates another. Jethwani identified four sources of motivation: social networking, gamification, which can be fun and interesting, incentives such as rebates on prescriptions and coaching.

Often, it is not only one parameter that motivates a person; it can be a combination of different sources. Technology can help look at all of the data and put factors together to see what specific motivators will help a particular person. This is important for patient care, as there is a strong correlation between motivated and engaged patients and better health outcomes.

Jethwani suggested several ways to improve engagement. For instance, providers need to be engaged in any technology used and the patient needs to know that the provider is engaged. He also discussed the need for data technology and the fact that transfers need to be simple.

Additionally, Jethwani identified ways to use technology to support the person with diabetes. There needs to be a way to segment patients and personalized strategies to suit each person. Any use of technology needs to be tailored to an individual's “learning styles.” Health care providers must also be empowered with appropriate tools to maintain tight “feedback loops” and engagement. Finally, he advised that there needs to be an appropriate mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions.

In closing, he suggested that every patient is like a snowflake — each is different, so we must engage and create programs that will actually work for that patient.  

Joan K. Bardsley, MBA RN CDE FAADE, is Assistant Vice President of Special Projects at MedStar Health Research Institute, and 2014 President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Reference

  1. Jethwani K. GS02 – Engaging patients in their care using Connected Health. Presented at: AADE 2015; Aug. 5-8, 2015; New Orleans.
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