- The Department of Health & Human Services is focusing on patient engagement technology and mHealth tools to improve chronic care management, the agency announced during a Patient-Empowering Technologies (PETS) summit held earlier this week.
The summit, which included tech entrepreneurs across the country, focused on how patient engagement technologies can assist patients in self-managing their own illnesses.
“Chronic disease is the most significant cause of patient disability and is also the most significant source of patient cost,” said HHS deputy secretary Eric D. Hargan. “Many chronic diseases are preventable, manageable, and treatable when patients are empowered with the right information, tools, and support.”
But improving patient engagement is often easier said than done, Hargan pointed out. Driving patient behavior change and practicing patient motivation techniques are some of the great challenges in healthcare, and providers work each day to improve in those areas.
But with the rise of health IT, clinicians have a new set of tools at their disposal. Patient engagement technologies can provide patients both the information and the mechanisms to support better chronic disease management.
Patient access to health information – be it their own health data or patient education information – can empower patients to make their own care decisions. Management tools, such as fitness trackers or medication reminders, help patients take control of their own management strategies.
The companies in attendance included Livongo, Trainer Rx, Preventice Solutions, Medisafe, AbleTo and Cohero Health. These technology groups represent a vast array of patient engagement technologies, ranging from self-management tools, education tools, care access mechanisms, and messaging devices.
HHS hosted the summit in an effort to better understand the patient engagement technology landscape. The agency said it aims to improve chronic care management, especially in an age of value-based care, and recognizes the value of health IT in doing so.
“We’re here to learn where you all have been successful in this area, what has worked, what hasn’t. … We’d like to know the barriers you all face,” Hargan told attendees. “HHS, like you, is looking to give patients technology with which they can better manage their health.”
While HHS did not disclose any of the specific topics the summit attendees discussed, the companies in attendance said the event was a productive step forward for integrating patient engagement technology into chronic care management.
Specifically, companies discussed how their tools engage patients and extend care beyond the traditional four walls of a health facility, according to representatives from Livongo, one of the companies in attendance. HHS also sought insights into how these companies scale their businesses.
“Livongo was very encouraged to see HSS placing an important emphasis on patient engagement and behavior change while open to exploring new regulatory and reimbursement structures to accelerate these innovations into the Medicare population,” Dr. Bimal Shah, senior vice president for Clinical and Strategic Partnerships at Livongo, said in an emailed statement to PatientEngagementHIT.com.
HHS also invited top advisors from other government health agencies, including individuals from the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
Technology has long been a key part of patient engagement strategies. With the meaningful use programs’ mandates calling on patient data access and patient-provider communication, patient portals have become a core part of most patient technology experiences.
However, healthcare professionals are finding that other patient engagement technologies are overshadowing patient portal use.
Patients are interested in tools that make their care more convenient and easier to manage, a 2018 IDC report found. This includes messaging tools, appointment schedulers, medication adherence apps, and other tools that aid in care management.
“The industry and, more importantly, patients have suffered under inconvenient access to healthcare; digital patient engagement is poised to change that by providing healthcare consumers access to both administrative and clinical support conveniently in a personalized and interactive dialogue when needed,” said IDC Health Insights research director and report author Cynthia Burghard said in a statement.
Previous patient engagement tools have left patients beholden to the provider, the report suggested. A patient portal, for example, requires both patient and provider use. Traditional tools are static and do not do much to empower patients.
Technology is now trending toward patient activation, or tools that put patients in the driver’s seat of their own healthcare. As healthcare professionals work to improve chronic disease management, it will be important for them to tap into tools that support the patient in their own pursuit of better health and engagement.