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Survey: Chronic Care Patients Want an mHealth Connection With Their Doctor

Almost 90 percent of patients surveyed by West say they can't manage their health on their own, and want a digital health connection with their doctor outside the doctor's office.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

A new survey finds that many people living with a chronic condition would benefit from a connected care platform that allows healthcare providers to check in regularly. But less than a third of those people are getting that mHealth service.  

Conducted by West and unveiled at this week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and exhibition in Orlando, the survey finds that 91 percent of people with a chronic condition need help with care management, and 88 percent said that assistance would make a difference in their overall state of health.

But while 70 percent of patients say they’d like their doctor to check in with them regularly, only 30 percent are seeing that benefit. And only 5 percent of providers are using mHealth surveys to keep tabs on their patients at home.

West officials say healthcare providers are not only missing out on a chance to see how their patients are doing in between visits – they’re putting those patients in danger of an avoidable and costly trip to the hospital and opening themselves up to reimbursement penalties.

“There is a great deal of financial pressure on hospitals to keep readmissions to a minimum,” Chuck Hayes, vice president of product management for TeleVox Solutions at West, said in a press release, adding that potentially avoidable readmissions are costing hospitals $528 million in Medicare penalties for the 2017 fiscal year. “The financial motivation to reduce readmissions should be prompting providers to work proactively to keep patients out of the hospital.”

READ MORE: The Message is Clear: mHealth Can Be Motivational

“What the survey findings … show is that much more needs to be done to help patients manage chronic conditions so that unnecessary hospitalizations can be prevented,” he added. “In fact, there are opportunities for providers to do more to engage patients in their daily lives and at home, and there is evidence to support that those efforts would lead to better patient health outcomes.”

Automated check-ins, most often in the form of questionnaires delivered by phone, text or e-mail, can help providers keep tabs on the patients on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, and have been proven to boost clinical outcomes and reduce costs.

“Automated surveys allow providers to routinely monitor chronic patients, escalate cases where patients are at risk and intervene before patients reach the point of needing acute care,” the survey reported.  “[T]here is untapped potential for using patient surveys [but] just 5 percent of providers say they use survey check-ins that ask patients questions about treatment plans, despite the high demand for remote health monitoring.”

In addition, 62 percent of the patients surveyed said remote monitoring devices that track data at home and send that information to their doctors would help. But healthcare has been slow to adopt remote patient monitoring platforms because of data reliability, integration issues and lack of reimbursement.

The West survey indicates providers would do well to take a closer look at RPM platforms, including automated surveys. Almost 60 percent of the patient surveyed said they’re not confident in managing their condition, with one in five saying their doing a poor job. In fact, one in five surveyed said they need 24-hour-a-day support to manage their chronic condition.

READ MORE: Can mHealth Make Chronic Care Patients Care About Their Health?

“A lot of patients simply do not have a good grasp on health metrics – meaning they either don’t know what their current health metrics are, or they do not know what they should be,” the survey noted. “Plus, even when patients do know their numbers, it is not guaranteed that they understand what those numbers mean. To make sense of health metrics and chronic disease management, patients need support from their healthcare providers.”

Those patients are also looking for encouragement from their doctors. According to the survey, 35 percent want to learn how to change unhealthy behaviors, while 33 percent want a more personalized care management plan and 31 percent want advice on how to manage their condition.

“By sending encouraging messages, reminders to follow care plans, detailed medication instructions and other supportive communications, physicians can not only make patients feel more valued, but they can also drive patients to take actions to improve their own health,” Allison Hart, a vice president with TeleVox Solutions at West, said in a 2016 interview with “Since positive health outcomes often mean happier patients, physicians and their teams should look for ways to make technology-enabled engagement communications a routine part of patient care.”


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