Alexa, play “90s music” playlist on Spotify.
Alexa, dim the lights to movie mode.
Alexa, send my blood sugar levels to my doctor.
Wait, what?! Yes, that’s right. The technology surrounding us is partnering with the digital health sphere.
Maybe you’re thinking this is old news. Your hand poised near this screen already sports a smartwatch. You can name a bevy of mobile apps to track your steps or to keep a food diary. Your grandpa, who still can’t figure out how to turn off ‘all caps,’ can monitor his blood pressure with ease via his at-home device.
All this data collection inevitably generates a lot of information that quantifies our health status. But why are we collecting it? And what can we do with it?
We don’t need more apps.
We need more integration.
Enter the world of digital health integration.
Instead of pursuing the burgeoning innovation of technology, this approach aims to innovatively integrate the technology we already have. It connects health care providers with patient-generated health data (PGHD) from wearable devices, mobile apps, and at-home monitors.
In short, it makes all this collected information actionable.
The idea is that, by putting data from patients’ devices in the hands of their providers, we will provide more effective care.
Take this on-going, 2016 pilot study, for example. Validic, a tech startup, and Sutter Health, a non-profit in northern California, collaborated to improve care for type 2 diabetics. Patients were armed with an app connecting all devices tracking blood sugar levels, weight, etc. What if someone’s still using an old-school blood pressure cuff? No problem. Validic’s VitalSnap™ technology could interpret a photo of the reading taken on a patient’s smartphone.
The app sent the compiled information to providers through a single, secure pipeline and delivered it into the patient’s electronic medical records. Every morning, the nurse care manager would receive a summary of the captured data. The system color-coded patients based on who needed immediate attention (red), who could benefit from a follow-up reminder (yellow), and who was stable (green).
The patient didn’t do anything differently. The data simply went to a place where someone could take action on it.
This level of improved, priority-based care can lead to better diabetes management, closer patient-provider connections, and fewer hospitalizations.
Not only does this initiative inform diabetes care, but these new changes also provide a tremendous opportunity for healthcare management.
Projects of this scale require system-wide changes.
System-wide changes require thoughtful management.
To help, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology published a set of project guidelines based on observations from the pilot study. These guidelines proposed a framework to facilitate practices in effectively using PGHD data, covering everything from how much patient data to record and where to store it.
Infrastructural and workflow modifications of new initiatives can be difficult to navigate. Guidelines such as these can serve the federal government in creating national standards on collecting and using PGHD in research and in clinical care.
It’s ultimately about the right combination of technology and human touch.
PGHD doesn’t have to cause data overload. A system-wide architecture of information integration, coupled with the right analytical tools and clinic workflow, can help care teams better support their patients.
We’ve got the potential to transform the patient experience.
It’s time to integrate. Innovatively.