Tag: electronic health reporter

Do We Have a Healthcare IT Public Relations Problem?

I may be preaching to the choir, or, perhaps, I’m speaking to myself. Here I am, a member of the both the health IT community and a member of the PR community. One of my tasks is to help educate and inform those within and those on the outside of the healthcare community about the benefits of technology that’s designed and created for the betterment of physicians, caregivers and patients.

Being in my somewhat unique position, where I publish a site dedicated to healthcare technology and my role as a PR professional, I get to see things from both sides of the fence, in many cases several times in a given day.

I do a lot of pitching to media sources, sending stories and ideas that have been developed by my clients to best educate the community about a plethora of subjects to the media. I live by a credo established by myself to approach the media only with topics I feel are specific, educated and advance the overall conversation about a certain subject. Never do I blindly pitch ideas simply for the sake of landing coverage in obscure outlets.

Perhaps Electronic Health Reporter is an obscure outlet. I’d like to think not. Nevertheless, I get pitched by fellow PR practitioners a lot. More than you might think; several times a day. As regular readers of this site know, I tend to focus on healthcare information technology and it peripheral topics. But, that’s more than I receive from my colleagues for story ideas.

Some of the topics in my inbox are enlightening and some are entertaining; some of completely off topic and some should never have been sent. So, why is this important; why take the time to dedicate to a post about the subject?

Perhaps I’m a purist. Maybe I have a sense of self importance, but I tend to think that the conversations taking place with the media, things that are being positioned for the press by leaders in the HIT community, just might not be what the market – those serving patients and others in the practice of healthcare – really need, want or like.

At its very base, this is the sort of thing that makes me wonder just how much “innovation” there is because those in the position of creating a product for the purpose of selling it to make money are convincing those that are counting on them for the newest products to advance their mission in the field according to innovation and need.

I’m often called a cynic. It’s true. I’m suspicious of a lot of things. It’s something that I developed during my days as a reporter when, like now (as a site publisher and blogger), I get pitched a lot of stories that were not worthy of my time.

I’ve got to admit, I’m surprised by this disconnect. It’s somewhat eye opening to me that the vendors serving the healthcare community seem so far from synched up with those actually providing the care.

If I’m wrong, I hope you’ll let me know. If I’m right, I promise not to be part of the problem.

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What We Think When We’re Led to Think a Certain Way: Wolters Kluwer’s Survey About Healthcare and the American Uninformed

Wolters Kluwer recently released a gem of a survey fit for the bandwagon of health IT topics currently underway.

On its head, the survey results are intriguing and the data does provide some insight into what the American public is thinking when led to think a certain way about a specific topic that, quite frankly, most don’t know much about.

Now, I’m not saying Wolters Kluwer data is flawed. On the contrary, the firm, which makes its living producing qualified data, knows what it’s doing. What I’m implying is that Wolters Kluwer is producing a survey with data collected by an audience that doesn’t truly understand the topic in which it’s responding to.

Let’s dive in and I’ll explain.

According to the survey by the Philadelphia-based company, 80 percent of consumers believe the greater “consumerization” of healthcare – or the trend of individuals taking a greater and more active role in their own healthcare – is positive for Americans.

“Survey data suggests many Americans feel that a greater role in their care is not only good, but necessary, with 86 percent of consumers reporting that they feel they have to take a more proactive role in managing their own healthcare to ensure better quality of care.”

Let’s start here. As a member of the healthcare community, I’ve helped produce similar reports based on surveys I have even helped write, produce, analyze and release to the public. Does that mean my data was a good as Wolters Kluwer? No, not at all.

My point is that there is nothing new here. Nearly every survey of the American public about healthcare tends to suggest that they need to be more involved in their care. All Americans want to take greater control of their car until, seemingly, it’s time to do so.

Even the results suggest that Americans have the information and tools available to them to take on more responsibility.

“Most consumers also say they feel prepared to take on a greater role in managing their own healthcare, with 76 percent reporting that they have the information and tools to take a more proactive role in healthcare decisions ranging from choosing healthcare providers to researching treatment options. Despite feeling prepared, only 19 percent report that they have their own electronic Personal Health Record (PHR).”

Well, there’s the catch. There always something holding people back; no, it’s not the fact that when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road no one is ready to actually start their journey. If only everyone had access to a PHR, everyone would clamor to be more involved in their care.

Certainly, most of us know that this is simply an excuse so no one has to take responsibility for their actions. And, when PHRs are readily available, some other hurdle will keep Americans from moving forward with their engagement.

Finally, of the 1,000 respondents, Wolters Kluwer suggests that a mind boggling 30 percent of Americans want the same experiences with their physicians as they have with other consumer interactions, such as while shopping, traveling or lodging, complete with choices and control.

Here’s where my suspension of disbelief ceases. There’s just no simple to explain this nor is there very much credibility in the statement. The flaw in this piece of detail, in my opinion, is that we’ll never be able to have the same experiences with our physicians as we can with our travel agent or the baker in the local supermarket.

Physicians, after all, develop a much more intimate with their “consumers.” I mean, physicians see us naked and stick us with needles and get a lot closer than the clerk at your local department store. There is simply no way the relationship nor the experience is going to be the same. Which brings me back to my original point: the survey just seems to try to be so much more than it is seemingly as a result of trying to be part of a larger conversation.

But, to mitigate against the risk of you thinking I’m holding out on you, here are the remaining results. Let me know if you agree with my assessment:

According to Wolters Kluwer: “When it comes to choices about physicians, assuming that experience levels and care reputations are similar, consumers rank costs of visits and procedures (20 percent); technologically advanced offices, including the ability to communicate via email with doctors and nurses, schedule appointments online (19 percent); location of practice/office (19 percent) and friendliness of staff (14 percent) as the top four factors influencing their decision.”

Among other findings from the survey:

 

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HealthIT.gov: Offering Support and Education about Mobile Devices in Healthcare

I’ve long been an advocate of HealthIT.gov, which I’ve profiled here multiple times for the guidance the site provides about electronic health records and ways to use the technology.

A new addition to the site is guidance for physicians about mobile health technology, which is beginning to pervade the healthcare landscape.

As healthcare workers and professionals continue to use mobile devices in the care setting, they’ll need accurate and helpful information to protect them and their patients from issues such as security breeches.

To that end, it’s nice to see the Department of Health and Human Services to assemble a series of tips and information to the public’s greater good.

The site features several articles and videos designed to offer support and education about using mobile device in healthcare.

For example, articles include topics such as:

For those who prefer video, topics covered include:

In addition, there’s also frequently asked questions and downloadable materials. All in all, the site is filled with a great deal of rich content.

On top of that, there’s a plethora of other information including tips for integrating privacy and security into a medical practice, building a health information privacy and security plan, information about health IT security resources, cyber security and mobile device security.

Simply put, this is a great resource for all of us in healthcare, patients included. Well done, well done, HealthIT.gov.

 

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HIMSS Study: Mobile Technology Allows Physicians to Embrace New Ways of Collecting Information and Connecting with Patients

According to the results of the 2nd Annual HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, mobile technology is increasingly important to healthcare. Patients are obviously on board, but so are physicians and their employers.

Extensive adoption of almost every type of technology continues to take hold in the space, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and “movable workstations.”

An argument I remember hearing during my time in the vendor space is that if patients/consumers evolved into a mobile community, physicians would follow. Obviously, we’re seeing this prediction come true, but I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be the case as it’s the type of technology that’s cheap, assessable, mobile and effective.

More so, according to the HIMSS study, “physicians are embracing new ways of collecting information and connecting with patients.” I do wonder, though, if physicians thought they’d be using their technology to connect with their patients as much as they have reported through the survey.

Surprisingly, (for me, at least) is the HIMSS reports that 93 percent of all physicians use mobile health technology in their day-to-day activities, and 80 percent use it to provide patient care.

A little less surprising is that nearly 25 percent have EHR systems that capture clinical information from mobile devices, and 36 percent allow patients to access information and health records using a mobile device.

The survey featured 180 individuals who “were directly responsible for some aspect of a healthcare organization’s mobile health policy shows that the number of mobile health programs in hospitals and individual practices increased.”

In my experience with this type of research, and as my former colleagues in research might point out, the sample size is statistically pretty small, though, and I’d like to see how the numbers would come out with an inflated sample size. I’d be surprised if 93 percent of physicians used so much mobile tech.

Finally, according to the survey, and I’m just reporting the facts here:

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Are Virtual Assistants the “Silver Bullet” for Patient Engagement? It’s Possible, Some Say

Victor Morrison, vice president of healthcare markets, Next IT

Who would have thought that intelligent virtual assistants could be used as patient engagement tools? The same virtual assistants that live on websites you might traffic that help you find site details, search the site or ask more detailed questions about information contained on the site.

Apparently this is the exact line of thinking of the folks at Next IT, a company that develops virtual assistant technology. According to Victor Morrison, vice president of healthcare markets, virtual assistants are the “silver bullet” to the patient engagement quandary.

The Washington state-based technology firm currently supports several major companies including United and Alaska airlines, Gonzaga University, Amtrak and Aetna. Though it’s only current healthcare experience is on the payer side, the company entered into a partnership with a major pharmaceutical company a few weeks ago and is expected to bring a new virtual assistant “personality” to market in a few months, said Morrison.

Next IT has partnered with Aetna for three years, creating for the company through its Human Emulation Software, “Agent Ann,” a virtual assistant that lives on Aetna’s registration page of its website. There, Ann provides immediate assistance to new members visiting the site for the first time. Ann debuted in early 2010 when many new members were first beginning to use their plans, and “she” is available to members 24/7, making it easier to do business over the web.

Members are able to type in their questions, using their own natural language and get the information they need to continue registration. Results show that she’s having an impact.

According to Next IT’s website, more than half of people registering on the website for the first time engage with Ann, “Because Ann does such a good job walking members through registration, Aetna reported that during the fifth month after implementation, they saw a 29 percent reduction in calls to their member-service technical help desk.”

Because of Ann, Aetna is seeing a reduction in operating expenses while still providing the service that members expect.

Most impressive, though, is that half of all people registering on the Aetna site engage Ann. Even Aetna’s covered members using the member’s only site are able to use Ann to view claims, look up physicians for services and even estimate the amount a service will cost with a specific physician.

According to Morrison, the system used by Aetna will be considered somewhat light in relation to what Next IT has planned for the clinical setting. Specifically, it will be more proactive depending on a patient’s needs, he said.

“Interactive virtual assistants are the magic bullet for patient engagement,” Morrison said. “What we can do is create and interface with smart phone and smart devices.”

With the right interface, which can be created to incorporate voice activation, like what’s found in Siri, tools like virtual assistants that are employed by large and enterprise health systems may be able to create a link with a patient, to interact with and monitor activity on a regular basis and to engage them through a protected portal such as a patient portal.

Ultimately, tools like Aetna’s Ann, and the one used by the U.S. Army, which have personalities and back stories built into their profiles (designed to create trust with users, Morrison said) will be able to push information, reminders and updates to patients who sign up with the service to help them stay engaged with their caregivers.

“Once we understand the patient and we begin to engage, we can push information to them to push engagement,” said Morrison. “We’ll be able to ping them with a text message, and push medication reminders. We’ll even be able to ask them questions like ‘How are you feeling today.’”

Depending on the patient’s response, if after a certain number of non-positive responses, the assistant will be able to automatically schedule an appointment with a physician or manage some other pre-established message to the patient’s care provider to ensure the patient is being contacted to ensure proper care continuum.

But, the assistants’ interaction can be set up to be much more than pushing information; they can actually engage individual with medication reminders, for example, and provide guidance for recommended doses, where to take an injection (in situations where that is appropriate), and improve patient understanding of a procedure or medication.

Patients can set up reminders through their smart devices, schedule appointments and can rate their health experience and how they feel, which can help physicians begin to create a comprehensive patient case history.

To see the system’s capabilities, check out this video; the service is impressive and I think Next IT may be onto something: Watch as a Virtual Health Assistant Engages a Patient on a Smartphone.

Based on this, virtual assistants may contribute to a more engage patient population, especially if people are able to so easily interact with them as is showcased in the video. Where patient portals and other engagement strategies, like social media, may be lacking, this technology may, in fact, be the magic bullet Next IT believes it to be.

 

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Regarding Patient Engagement, Don’t Abandon All the Arrows in Your Quiver