When the health IT industry collided last week at the HIMSS 2016 Conference, patient engagement was a notable theme for many healthcare professionals and technology developers.
Between advocating for new technologies that claim to boost patient engagement levels and patient satisfaction, as well as studies showing patients are connecting to their health technology more than ever, HIMSS 2016 showcased the prominence of patient engagement across the healthcare space.
Below are some of the biggest announcements that mean patient engagement is going to get a bigger boost in the near future:
Patient engagement technology gets more use
Perhaps some of the biggest news coming out of HIMSS 2016 is the fact that more providers are using patient engagement tools than ever before. In the 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey, the organization found that 52 percent or providers are using more than three connected health devices, and 69 percent focus on using that technology on exchanging information between patient and provider.
Respondents also listed several specific apps that they’re using, the most popular of which being mobile optimized patient portals (58 percent). Other popular technologies included patient education/patient engagement apps (48 percent), remote patient monitoring (37 percent), telehealth technology (34 percent), SMS texting (33 percent), patient-generated health data technology (32 percent), and concierge service telehealth (26 percent).
Other research shows that patients are using technology for better engagement, as well.
Also at HIMSS 2016, Accenture released a study showing that patients are using more technology to stay engaged with their healthcare. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of patients using mobile health apps increased from 16 percent to 33 percent.
And patients are using those apps rather effectively, with 40 percent of them discussing app results and sharing app information with their physicians. In doing this, patients and providers are able to act like partners in care, and are also able to pinpoint an exact picture of a patient’s health.
Telehealth gets major conference focus
Much of the HIMSS 2016 focus went on health IT developments, specifically on telehealth technologies. Several telehealth companies made some notable vendor announcements.
WebMD, for one, announced that they will be dipping their toes into the telehealth waters going forward. This may be a natural progression for the online consult website, considering that they have been known as a resource for patients to consult physician expertise from the comfort of their own computers.
Other telehealth companies, like Teledoc and American Well, announced expansions for their technologies as well. Teladoc stated that it will venture into the telebehavioral health sphere, and American Well announced a telehealth systems development kit that allows providers, retailers, health plans, or medical publishers the ability to make their own telehealth software on demand.
This is a huge step in the right direction for patient engagement. By expanding telehealth services, more patients in hard to reach areas (think rural areas,) are able to access healthcare.
By making care more convenient for the patient, patients are more likely to seek out care and consult with physicians when they otherwise may not have.
Patient education is going digital
The patient engagement efforts announced at HIMSS 2016 weren’t all just about connecting more patients to health devices; many innovations aimed at boosting patient satisfaction and patient education.
At Seattle Children’s Hospital, for instance, healthcare professionals developed a way to change how they educate patients and families following a child’s liver transplant. Experts from the hospital explained at HIMSS 2016 that an in-person education session that once took physicians nearly five hours to do can now be done via a mobile device at any time, in any place.
“We’re revolutionizing how we educate,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, Seattle Children’s Hospital’s executive director of digital health. “We wanted to digitize the information to make it more accessible and more complete.”
Swanson told mHealthIntelligence.com that the hospital wanted to make the information “more meaningful and nurturing.” By making the information available at the patient’s demand, it worked with their schedules. Likewise, delivering information in this format help prevent patients from getting distracted during education sessions and also served as a point of reference for families.
“Healthcare is just so person-based – we can’t replace that,” said Janice Anderson, director of North Highland, the consulting firm Swanson used to develop the digitized information. “But with technology that’s already in place, we can take it and use it to make the (hospital stay) richer and much more personal.”