Carolinas driving patient engagement with next generation tools

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Healthcare needs to figure out how to put tools in the hands of patients that help them improve their health status, said Pamela Landis, vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System, speaking at ONC’s fifth annual Consumer Health IT Summit.

Teenagers and young adults don’t use their phones as a phone but as a device, she said. This kind of changing communication is one reason Carolinas has been working on new ways to keep patients informed and make sure they have the data they need to share with family and other care providers.

One method is through MyCarolinas Tracker, an app that integrates data from Apple’s HealthKit and from 60-70 other devices including blood pressure cuffs, fitness devices and blood glucose testers. “Tracker consumes data, integrates it and puts it into clinical context,” she said. A dashboard indicates with red, green and yellow where the user is doing well and whether he or she is trending in the right direction. “It’s a great tool for us to say ‘now what?’”

The tool is collating and collecting all this data for patients but “the next thing we have to do is get it to care managers and clinicians. If you’re going to be our patient and you’re diabetic, we want your daily glucose readings,” Landis said. For those with a rising risk, Carolinas can start monitoring for frictionless communication through text or phone calls—whatever the patient prefers.

All the data also goes to the patient portal for a total health picture. “Everything comes together so patients have access to their total health picture. It’s next generation for us.”

The biggest challenge, Landis said, is designing tools that go right in people’s hands. “I really believe that if it doesn’t happen in your hands it doesn’t happen. If you’re not on somebody’s phone you almost don’t exist. I checked Facebook three times today but not some of my other tools.”

The question is how to get patients to care as much about their health status as they do about what their friends are having for lunch. The patient portal is foundational, she said, but “there are opportunities in the generation of apps and tools that integrate to our patient portals and our EMR systems that truly extend healthcare, help people manage their health and improve their own health status.”

Carolinas also offers on-demand virtual visits. “We want to make healthcare easy, accessible and convenient,” said Landis. “Healthcare is so difficult. We can manage it with technology.”