5 Healthcare Tools to Boost Patient Involvment
By Michelle McNickle 11/08/2012
Robots, Apps And Text Messaging Grab Attention
Leaders in healthcare delivery and design, academics and technology gathered Oct. 25-26 at the2012 Connected Health Symposium in Boston to drive home a theme of innovation, accountable care and patient engagement. The symposium showcased more than 100 speakers and networking events, all with the aim of discovering new tools that help connect technology, healthcare and consumers.
Shahid Shah, software analyst, consultant and author of The Healthcare IT Guy blog, led a demonstration of various vendors’ products. “The overview of the conference was to focus on what it means to have connected technology and how that may affect behavior,” Shah said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. “The medical world is focused on diagnostics, and ultimately, there’s a fashion of health that can only be affected by behavior change … that’s a good [fashion] to centralize, and that’s what these technologies are designed to help with.”
The second theme that became apparent at the symposium, said Shah, was technology that provides immediate feedback. “It was about the feedback loop, and how providing feedback requires behavior change that affects health and wellness,” he said.
More than 300 companies applied to be part of the symposium, and of those that applied, 30 were selected to demonstrate their tools in three sessions. Shah said there were no rankings, but it was instead a chance to showcase innovations around connected health.
For example, one of the tools shown, UbiTru, a product from UbiCare, sends patients quick text messages and emails reminding them of care updates. The thinking with this tool, said Shah, is that more consistent and frequent reminders can drive more positive clinical outcomes. “Primarily, for texting and email, the objective is that healthcare improves when the interactions are more frequent and happen in a timely manner,” he said. “So knowing when patients move from one area to another, [the messages can be] time based. If a patient is a diabetic, a reminder can be sent to check blood pressure, etc. It’s the same theme around patient communication but in short bursts to see if the feedback loop can be improved.”
Additional demos included robots that travel in place of a physician, which Shah said showcase a whole different side to telepresence solutions. On a different note, Irody’s MyPillSense addresses issues with medication adherence and helps users identify which pills they should be taking, and also when and how much to take.
Click through to see more connected health tools that are driving patient engagement and more immediate feedback between consumers and physicians.
Irody is best known for its MyPillSense app, which allows a smartphone to scan and identify medications. The app is used to reduce patient medication errors, which are common and can increase medical costs and complications. Irody uses its ActivPrescription computer vision technology to scan a pill in its MyPillSense app, while computer vision algorithms process images to identify the pills. Once the app identifies the actual pill, it can warn about medication errors and alert a patient if it is the wrong pill, the wrong dosage amount or if they’ve already taken the pill that day.
The MyPillSense app is still in beta, but users can find additional information on the Irody website. Pictured above is a sample screenshot of the MyPillSense app identifying a set of pills.
Healthrageous offers a digital health management platform to organizations interested in supporting an individual’s journey toward a healthy lifestyle. For individuals, it offers a tool that’s part of a health and wellness offering from their employer, health plan, healthcare provider or health and wellness retailer. The system is consumer-focused, said Healthcare IT Guy blogger Shahid Shah, but helps drive self-management and engagement by promoting behavior changes. “The consumer-driven value is easy to think of from an obvious perspective, but there aren’t experiments that prove wellness is improved when this type of self-management happens,” he said. “Over time, we’ll figure out whether or not this is useful on just the consumer side, or if the consumer can push this to the doctor. It’s unclear, but it’s a decent self-management platform.”
Pictured above is a sample Healthrageous device used to collect biometric data and ensure a constant flow of information tied to health action plans and goals.
UbiTru is a mobile engagement delivery platform by UbiCare that promotes interaction within a targeted patient population. The platform focuses on emails and text messages, with the strategy that quick and constant bursts of information — like reminder text messages — will promote behavior changes and, essentially, a healthier lifestyle. With these email and text message prompts, a user will see true/false questions, information and opportunities for engagement. Patient responses are then aggregated and revealed in real time.
UbiTru’s texts, emails and Web pages are customizable and use a simple content management system. Currently, UbiTru has products available for early childhood development, knee replacement surgery, special education/early intervention and top health news, with more topics in the works. Pictured above are examples of a UbiTru text and Web page.
Vignet Cancer Concierge
Vignet offers users its Cancer Concierge mobile and Web solution, which, said the company, “fills the huge unmet need for cancer prevention and early detection.” Using this tool, the company aims to identify the gaps in the cancer care continuum. The company is known for offering medical device integration capabilities, and in this case, the program helps patients follow instructions given by their doctor. “Sometimes, with the number of interactions or medications for cancer patients, there can be gaps in care, so [Vignet] is trying to manage that and help with care coordination,” said health IT blogger Shahid Shah. The app reports back to the oncologist, for example, allowing the doctor to see problems and steps happening on the patient’s end. “It makes sure there’s a direct communication between the two so things are working well with devices and all that,” said Shah.
Pictured above is the login screen for the Vignet Cancer Concierge Service.
Anybots was founded in 2001 and performs robot research and development. Within the healthcare space, said health IT blogger Shahid Shah, AnyBots provides a type of immersive telepresence, meaning instead of focusing merely on audio and video communications, the AnyBots robot allows for movement controlled by a remote control. “If you’re a doctor and have to manage 10 different nursing homes … the robot can go in, and the doctor can control his movement and direction,” Shah said. “It can turn on sensors at the control of not the person in the room, but the person who wants to do the communication,” he said. Shah said this type of telepresense is impressive since it can move in and out of a specific area and record findings. “In the future, I’d hope to see new sensors shine a beam of light, for example,” he said. “Today, it’s more about [helping] a human being who’s not in a specific location feel like he’s there.”