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Mobile Health Impacts Patient Engagement, Accountable Care

By Vera Gruessner

- Mobile health apps, wearable devices, and remote patient monitoring tools all provide superior avenues for meeting the goals of patient engagement. Ever since the HITECH Act was passed in 2009 and meaningful use requirements began mandating that patients view, download, and access their health information, more providers began focusing on improving patient engagement in their practice.

Mobile Health Devices and Patient Engagement

To improve health and wellness, certain mobile tools like apps or wearables could potentially create more interest or engagement among patients to focus on their fitness, diet, weight, and prescription management.

The Brookings Institution reports on the role patient engagement plays in accountable care and the Medicare Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program. Essentially, greater patient engagement is vital when developing an effective ACO.

In particular, patient engagement could be related to better population health outcomes as well as reduced costs throughout the healthcare industry, as individuals become "more active participants in their care." One example is shared decision making, which stimulates conversations between providers and patients as well as allows patients to choose preferred treatments.

"What we really need is for providers and ACO leaders to partner with patients at multiple levels," Jennifer Sweeney, National Partnership for Women and Families, told the news source.

One useful strategy for increasing patient engagement stems from the organization Mercy, which has a chronic disease outreach program. This particular program employs health coaches that stimulate patients to pay greater attention to their medical needs and improves care coordination between hospital visits. It also reduces overall healthcare costs associated with mismanagement.

"If I'm doing whatever is best for my patient, then I'm doing what's best for me and for our system," Kelly Taylor of Mercy Clinics told the Brookings Institution.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) published a report called The State of Patient Engagement and Health IT, which outlines that patients who are engaged in their overall health will show better health outcomes in the long run.

People who are focused on remaining healthy and fit are more likely to follow treatment plans, take their medications as scheduled, receive necessary screenings or immunizations, consume a nutritious diet, and exercise regularly. Additionally, health IT systems and other tools should lead to stronger patient engagement.

The report defines patient engagement as “the relationship between patients and healthcare providers working together to promote and support active patient and public involvement in health and healthcare and to strengthen their influence on healthcare decisions, at both the individual and collective levels.”

As more technology developers focus on improving interoperability throughout the healthcare industry, medical providers are aligning their resources to better engage patients with their medical needs. More channels are being developed to improve communication between physicians and patients such as patient portals and secure messaging platforms.

Along with these capabilities, mobile and digital tools assist in bringing forth greater patient engagement across the country among consumers of smart phones, tablets, or other mobile devices. Both physicians and patients use these technologies to better assist in their everyday life and workflow.

“Mobile apps and self-tracking devices can help patients help themselves,” the HIMSS report outlined. “There is huge promise in the advent of mobile when combined with ‘big data’ analytics and quantified-self (i.e., self-tracking) data to provide in-the-moment, real-time, personally-relevant coaching, education, and support. While there is promise, there is also concern in that many mobile apps’ policies allow consumer-generated data to ‘leak’ to third party data brokers who track and analyze data for purposes about which consumers are often unaware.24 Health data legal experts note that these data flows can fall out of the purview of HIPAA. Beyond these potential privacy issues, both consumers and physicians may have ‘app fatigue,’ needing support in identifying the most useful apps for specific patients and circumstances.”

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