Improve Patient Engagement by Leveraging Mobile Health Technology

Beverly Glass Buchman, senior vice president of marketing, TouchCare.

Beverly Glass Buchman
Beverly Glass Buchman

Numerous studies show that patient involvement in their own healthcare leads to reduced costs and better outcomes. It is especially beneficial for managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease, and it will become even more vital as the industry continues to move from volume-based care to a value-based care system.

Still, in a recent CommonWealth Fund study, 86 percent of providers said patient engagement has been challenging, specifically when it comes to adopting healthy behaviors and being compliant with treatment protocols and standard care recommendations. The challenge lies in continuing the doctor-patient conversation between office visits. Many physicians struggle to stay connected with patients and follow up between office visits, while balancing their ever-demanding schedules and precious time off.

Mobile technology can help. It can serve as a key component for improving engagement simply by adapting to a patient’s lifestyle. Nearly every American owns a smartphone today and daily usage time continues to skyrocket.

Look at the numbers for American smartphone usage:

Leveraging text messages, digital portals, and telemedicine video consults can engage your patients between appointments in a way that’s both convenient and familiar. For example, a remote video appointment allows a physician to check in between office visits to ensure medication adherence, discuss recent test results or receive patient feedback to help in shared decision making as treatment progresses. And it can be as easy as Skype or Facetime.

Scheduled virtual video consults can provide valuable data that will help tailor delivery of care to improve outcomes, all while saving money for both the provider and the patient.

Dr. Brian Forrest, medical director and founder of Access Healthcare in Apex, North Carolina, is a prime example of how to use mobile technology to help support meaningful patient interactions outside the office.

“An 81-year-old patient of mine had a leg injury with a bad infection. He had been to the office three or four times in just two weeks, and then required another follow up, this time over a weekend. Traditionally his options would have only been to go to the ER. Along with being an inconvenience for the patient, this would sacrifice continuity of care as well as potentially deter the relationship I’d established with him as the trusted, consistent advocate of his treatment,” Forrest said.

“Based on what I needed to check on, I determined a virtual house call would be a perfect fit – allowing me to talk with him and his wife, and also allowing me to visibly see the injury and his response. Using TouchCare, we were able to easily schedule a time to talk and get online with the app in minutes.

“Over the remote video consult from my home office, I directed him to hold the phone in front of his infection and his wife showed me the areas that were warm and not warm. I could see the infected area and I could monitor his facial expressions to assess level of pain and worry. Thanks to the video appointment technology, I knew his infection was moving in the right direction and no further consult was needed over the weekend. It saved him a trip to the ER and he is now perfectly healed.

“I also found an unexpected benefit from the video consultation. The opportunity drove patient satisfaction and a social connection that has continued to this day. It’s not always top of mind for physicians, but patients want an intimate relationship with their doctor. On this virtual house call, I could see both of his dogs, and he was so proud of his puppies. It made him really happy to show me a piece of his home life, and has since cemented a more connected, more intimate patient-physician relationship,” he finished.

As the CommonWealth Fund report states: “Providers have the opportunity to enhance care delivery and strengthen patient engagement using these new forms of interactive health services that facilitate greater connectedness between patients and their care team.”

Mobile heath technology: How better to reach your patients than right on the devices they carry around day in and day out?

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