What should providers look for when choosing patient engagement technology?
Thanks to the proliferation of mobile technology, consumers have exponentially more health information at their fingertips today than they have ever had. Consumer-grade medical devices are being outfitted with increasingly sophisticated sensors, which collect volumes of data about diet, sleep, heart rate, temperature, blood sugar, and other personal health metrics.
At the same time, healthcare providers are implementing IT platforms to collect that information and use it to deliver higher quality care to patients more efficiently.
With all this innovation, we should be living in a golden age for healthcare. The increased flow of information should be bringing physicians and their patients closer together. But, unfortunately, this is not materializing the way it should. Physicians and consumers alike say they feel inundated by a flood of data and lack the tools to separate the clinically relevant from the superfluous.
This is not the scenario anyone had in mind when better data technologies began making their way into the healthcare system.
Data: A blessing or a curse?
Data technologies should be paving the way to better healthcare. Patients should feel empowered by the information they hold in their hands, while healthcare providers should clearly see the connection between more available data and better patient outcomes. But too many physicians and patients say they’re overwhelmed by all the information.
It seems that the data that should be enabling better care can, in fact, have the opposite effect. Without actionable insights, data can get in the way.
Such is the case according to Dr. Andrew Trister, an oncologist at the nonprofit medical research organization Sage Bionetworks. In an article originally published in MIT Technology Review, Trister states “I’m an oncologist, and I have these patients who are proto ‘quantified self’ kinds of people. They come in with these very large Excel spreadsheets, with all this information — I have no idea what to do with that.”
When patients feel overburdened with information, they disregard it. Many are turning off the flow of information by ditching their health trackers. When providers feel overwhelmed with data that isn’t actionable, they may delay implementation of new technologies that can facilitate conversations between physicians and patients.
Outcomes like these are a step in the wrong direction.
The pressure on providers
Patients always have the option to remove their health trackers or disregard communications from their physicians. Healthcare providers, however, are under pressure to use new technologies to form closer ties with their patients. Achieving quality outcomes means physicians need to learn a great deal about their patients, and how to keep their care plans on track.
The problem of providers drowning in data can’t be solved by simply shutting down the flow of information. Instead, they need to identify the right technology that will solicit information that directly influences better patient outcomes and more efficient care team delivery.
So, what should healthcare providers be looking for in patient engagement technology?
Technology solutions should sift through the vast amount of patient data and identify the exceptions that physicians want to review. By focusing on the right patient at the right time, physicians can improve outcomes and show their patients that they care. The right technology can produce significant reductions in adverse events, hospital readmissions, and total costs of care. But this doesn’t have to come at the expense of patients’ experience. Through empathetic and personalized content, providers are not only engaging with patients but earning their trust.
Focus on the fundamentals
Back in the day, physicians would make house calls, learning about their patients’ health through face-to-face conversations. Most physicians don’t do house calls anymore. But the information once gleaned from face-to-face visits is the same information physicians should demand from patient-engagement technology. Though the software involved may be sophisticated, the fundamental principle is as simple as ever. The important information—the actionable insights—will come directly from the patient.
As health systems decide whether or how to implement patient engagement tools, they should remember the house call. Instead of using technology that simply opens the floodgates of data, physicians should be looking for digital tools that enable an ongoing, genuine, two-way conversation with the individuals they treat.