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Four top health systems share unique approaches to improve patient engagement

These providers have created diverse models of care that incorporate use of patient-centered technologies with measurable outcomes.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. are seeking ways to better engage patients with a variety of handheld and home-based technologies to improve patient experience and health outcomes.

This begs the questions: How does one use technology to transform the hospital bedside? Or to increase medication adherence for hypertension? What about controlling diabetes, or reducing distress in patients with cancer?

Four healthcare organizations, including UC San Diego Health, Ochsner Health System, Sutter Health and Stanford Health Care, have developed answers to these questions. All have created diverse models of care that incorporate use of patient-centered technologies with measurable outcomes, and these results were recently published in Health Affairs.

IMPACT

There are a few examples of these projects and the effects they've had.

Ochsner Health System used its online patient portal to help treat hypertension with a new digital medicine program that combined patient-reported blood pressure data, clinical data and coaching.

Outcomes showed that medication adherence among patients improved 14 percent, while 79 percent achieved greater blood pressure control. Overall, clinicians saw a 29 percent reduction in clinic visits.

Sutter Health used its patient portal to help patients self-manage their diabetes. Online reminders of hemoglobin A1c monitoring among patients with diabetes improved the rate of A1c test completion by 33.9 percent. Overall, patients with previously uncontrolled diabetes had a significant reduction in HbA1c at six months compared to usual care.

Stanford Health Care, meanwhile, used its patient portal to help patients with cancer manage stress. Patients were surveyed before clinic visits to identify unaddressed symptoms, and about 40 percent of those who responded reported experiencing distress. These responses led to more than 6,000 referrals for psychotherapy, nutrition and other services.

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

In 2016, UC San Diego Health opened Jacobs Medical Center, a 245-bed hospital that offers advanced surgery, cancer care, cardiac rehabilitation, and birthing options. To put patients in direct control of their experience, an Apple tablet was placed in every patient room.

The tablets enabled patients to control room temperature, lighting and entertainment options from their beds. The tablets also enabled access to personal medical information, such as test results and schedules of medications or upcoming procedures. Photographs and biographies of their care team were also available.

What researchers found is that a big chunk of patients said the tablets were contributing to a positive patient experience, and engagement in medical care, determined by accessing their medical record, was higher.

THE TREND

Consumerism means customers have expectations of convenience, flexibility and ease of use. In healthcare, the customers are the patients, and healthcare organizations who want to attract business are increasingly looking to technological innovation to bring patients into the fold.

Aditya Bhasin, chief of web systems and vice president of software design and development at Stanford Health Care, spoke at HIMSS19 in February about his organization's attempts to do just that, emphasizing the importance of innovating from the inside -- to better create something that fits a provider's specific ecosystem.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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