Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

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Hospital Uses Telehealth to Help Children Manage Their Weight

St. Jude's is launching a telehealth program to link clinicians with kids at risk of obesity. It's one of many programs that use mHealth coaching and RPM to help patients at home.

By Eric Wicklund

- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is launching a telehealth project designed to help children with weight management issues.

The 12-week pediatric telehealth weight management pilot will enable the hospital’s registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) to monitor patients at home through the Fruit Street platform, which includes a mobile application. Medgem activity tracker and Tanita scale.

RDNs will conduct a baseline nutrition visit with selected patients, during which the patient will decide on attainable nutrition goals. During the program, the RDN will conduct video visits with the patient, who can also use the app to send images of meals.

Launched in 2014 by Laurence Girard and VSee founder Milton Chen and touting more than 160 physician investors, New York-based Fruit Street is one of the so-called “second wave” of telehealth companies, focused on health and wellness platforms that help drive providers and patients dealing with chronic diseases and issues like weight gain, addiction and behavioral health concerns.

"(O)besity costs the US healthcare system over $147 billion each year, and two in three Americans are overweight or obese,” Girard said prior to a conference earlier this year. “Our healthcare system must use technology such as Fruit Street to find more cost-effective solutions to address the obesity epidemic."

The Fruit Street platform is also in use at the University of Michigan, which launched a pediatric telemedicine weight management program in 2015, and at the University of North Florida, which launched a binge eating disorder study roughly a year ago. The company has integrated its platform with Apple Watch and explored partnerships with Validic and Fitbit.

Telehealth platforms like Fruit Street’s are especially helpful in providing real-time coaching and remote monitoring. They’re designed to give patients easy access to a healthcare resource who can guide them when the going gets tough.

“It’s all about long-term empathy,” Jocelyn Sivalingham, MD, FACP, a medical director for West Health’s Health Advocate business who deals with chronic care treatment plans, told in an interview earlier this year. “It’s about having the (doctor) pay more attention to the person at the other end of the stethoscope.”

“Technology is merely the tool; it’s never the solution” to engagement, added Colin Roberts, senior director of healthcare product integration at West Health and a type 1 diabetic for 10 years. “It enables those frequent nudges (between provider and patient), but if you sit back and expect the technology to do the job, you’re missing the connection.”

Several hospitals are tying a telehealth platform to Fitbit for remote monitoring programs. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota used the activity band to measure fitness trends in more than 100 children and teens with type 1 diabetes earlier this year; in Boston, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers is using Fitbits to study exercise patterns among women undergoing breast cancer treatment. 

Dig Deeper:

8 Guidelines to Make mHealth More Attractive to Patients

Factors Behind the Adoption of School-based Telehealth


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