A care management Virtual Health Coach, however, would combine the best of mHealth applications, like a do-it-yourself online symptom advisor, nurse advice line and care management program within a single, full-featured smart phone app.
We see several key activities that health plan members should be able to perform via a comprehensive, integrated mHealth platform for care management services:
- Administrative transactions let health plan members quickly find in-network physicians, urgent care facilities, pharmacies or retail clinics, and look up claims status information or personal health record information.
- Care team communications improve health plan members’ access to the healthcare team. This may include e-visits with physicians or a health plan member’s personal health coach, getting a personalized health tip or health information based on a specific question or simple reminders sent by a health coach/provider for an upcoming appointment. These activities should include sending and receiving secure messages to and texting with the care team.
- Managing health and promoting wellness can help health plan members better manage their health. Condition-specific and agnostic tools remind health plan members to take medications; present generic medication alternatives when a brand name is prescribed; send text reminders for upcoming preventive care tests; and provide the ability to track and receive wellness rewards points that can be exchanged for healthy foods in exchange for entering a variety of biometric data. Additional activities can include tracking weight, caloric intake, exercise and biometric results; preventive care reminders via texting; targeted health tips and incentive reminders; medication adherence strategies; a nurse advice; and self-care recommendations.
Admittedly, putting this myriad information in one place, and making it easy to access and understand is a formidable task. Even so, with advances in software development and user interface design, we can make it happen.
So while a Virtual Health Coach is, well, still virtual, we must continue to work to bring best, most compelling mHealth apps together in one place for health plan members and providers to improve engagement and health, and lower healthcare costs.
Kevin Maher is Vice President of Product Marketing and Management at McKesson Health Solutions, a provider of care management services to commercial and government payers.