Guest Column | June 18, 2015

5 Mobile Patient Engagement Benefits Beyond Remote Check-Ins


By John Smithwick, CEO, RoundingWell

The rise of transformative technologies from EMRs to wearables is quickly making mobile devices a very real part of a person’s health care journey. Ninety percent of Americans now own a mobile device, and they spend an average of 43 minutes per month on those devices, compared with just 22 minutes at an average doctor’s visit. Mobile devices make information instantly available to far more people than traditional desktop computers ever did. In fact, for the first time, people are searching for information more on mobile devices than on laptops or desktops, according to Google.

With nearly all the information in the world just clicks away, patients –

especially those with chronic conditions – are advocating for access to their personal medical information, at any time, in any place. By having this access, these “consumer driven health care” advocates believe they can fill in information gaps that are in their records and participate as an equal member of their care team.  

Clinicians are also seeing the importance of mobile devices, not only for their patients but also as tools to support their own ability to deliver quality of care in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. According to a survey out of the 2015 HIMSS conference, 54 percent of those using mobile devices to engage with patients have seen cost-savings.

The rise of this collaborative approach to health care is one of the crucial steps in the journey toward a more efficient, value-based healthcare world. By utilizing mobile devices, which are already an ingrained part of people’s everyday lives, clinicians can tailor delivery of care to more closely align with the modern patient’s expectations, while also receiving data that has a real impact on outcomes.

Ongoing, Two-Way Conversations

With the rise of text messaging and social media, people are used to communicating instantly. As many companies in service industries have made a move to align with these expectations, health care has mostly lagged behind in creating a system that allows patients to have an ongoing conversation with their health care provider beyond the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. By deploying patient engagement technology, both clinicians and patients can utilize mobile devices to have secure, ongoing, two-way conversations that are more aligned with today’s methods of communication.

From sharing a new symptom or learning about preventative care tips, the ability to engage in an ongoing discussion can break down barriers, making patients more comfortable with physicians and transforming them into a true resource for health information. Aside from increased patient satisfaction, establishing this kind of communication channel can also lead to earlier identification of potential adverse health events.

Tailored, Bite-Sized Content

We live in a hyper-connected world that is measured in 140 characters and messages that disappear after 24 hours. Health content is no exception, as information on care now needs to be delivered in small, digestible chunks relevant to patients and accessible from anywhere. As patient engagement technology has grown more sophisticated, a new benefit is the ability to send tailored, bite-sized content to any patient in real time. Assessments and education content can range from disease management, to achieving physical wellness and emotional health.  

Technology enables healthcare organizations to deploy this educational content at the touch of a button, and to customize it to each part of a health care journey. Have a diabetes patient who has just been discharged from the hospital after a life-threatening rise in blood sugar? Serve them with content that includes one low glycemic recipe a day, as well as weekly facts on what lifestyle factors are most likely to create a spike in their insulin levels. By using content to engage patients on a regular basis, clinicians can help proactively prevent readmissions and earn the trust of patients.

Remote Monitoring

The number of hours available to service a patient is often severely impacted by the number of hours it takes to chart all the information from a visit. While patients may only experience a half hour or less with a clinician, a physician can spend up to a third of a workday charting. Patient engagement technology allows physicians to gain some of those hours back by making it easier to monitor patients from afar – a convenience that many patients would welcome.

Beyond the ability to check in on how a patient is progressing, dealing with issues related to medications, signs, and symptoms, or just general treatment plan progress, patient engagement technology enables physicians to remotely monitor patients. By integrating with HIPAA-compliant monitoring devices, physicians can monitor heart rate, activity rate, weight, blood glucose, and other biometrics. In doing so, clinicians can spot health events that a patient may not have felt they needed to disclose and address them before they lead to a costly hospital visit – all from their office.

Access To Real-Time Data For Clinicians And Patients

Real-time data is something that both patients and providers are hungry for – and patient engagement technology can provide it to both parties via mobile devices.

For clinicians, the ability to answer patient questions, check in, and conduct health visits via mobile devices provides a stream of data that can be collected and analyzed on an ongoing basis. These modern technologies not only provide benefits, they help save time by eliminating many of the hours spent manually charting, faxing records, and hand-entering medical data.   

By utilizing data that is instant and self-reported, combined with data from sensors and devices, physicians can not only take a look at an individual’s health, but also begin to determine population-level analysis, helping to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

For patients, this technology can integrate with some EMRs and other health information systems to provide a more complete picture of their health, from having bone scans delivered to their phones to having a history of their blood pressure since they started new medication available, securely, on a tablet. Enabling patients’ access to their information after days, instead of months, enables them to feel a greater satisfaction with their physician and their quality of care.

New Ways To Execute Telehealth Visits

Many healthcare systems are currently executing telehealth visits via phone call, which can seem impersonal and take up man hours. With mobile devices, clinicians can execute these virtual visits in a way that enables the patient to see the face of their doctor (making the visit feel more real) and connect with physicians that might be out of state, while clinicians save money and resources. In fact, most clinicians can actually use telehealth to bring more dollars in the door, without impacting patient satisfaction.

With CMS now including virtual visits for care management as billable CPT code services, facilities are able to check in with more patients more often. A combination use of these codes could generate around $200 per patient in incremental revenue, without degrading patient experience and satisfaction.

Serving as a catalyst in the shift towards value-based care, the use of mobile devices by both patients and clinicians will continue to evolve the way care is delivered. To stay relevant and solvent in this new world, healthcare organizations must start looking now for technologies that truly integrate with the mobile lifestyle of patients and that also deliver high quality, easy-to-access data for physicians.

About John Smithwick
John Smithwick is the CEO of RoundingWell.  He co-founded RoundingWell in 2011 following four years at Nashville's Healthways, where he led the design effort for their web-based disease and lifestyle management product offerings. Prior to his work at Healthways, he worked in product management at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. and in technology strategy consulting with Accenture in Boston, Mass. A graduate of the University of Richmond, he holds a master's of business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.