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Hospitals Rev Mobile Patient Engagement

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   August 11, 2015

Providers' willingness to partner with the technology industry to explore collecting personal activity-tracking information demonstrates the value of boosting patient engagement via mobile devices.

This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Patient engagement remains an elusive goal for providers, but new mobile technology initiatives by Apple and others are breathing fresh life into the effort, providers say.

Patient portals still struggle to meet the 5% requirement of meaningful use stage 2.

Much of this approach currently revolves around providers engaging with mobile phone manufacturers, such as Apple, and their technology partners. Last fall, Apple rival Samsung revealed digital health partnerships with Cleveland Clinic, Humana, and Stanford University, among others. That followed Apple's initial blitz of partnerships last year with EHR publisher Epic and the Mayo Clinic. During the year following, a growing number of other healthcare providers also revealed alliances with Apple.

What all these announcements share is the willingness of providers to explore collecting personal activity–tracking information, such as number of steps taken as well as other patient-collected measurements from either mobile phones or devices connected to those phones, to boost patient engagement with their providers.

The most dramatic implementation so far of such collection is Cedars-Sinai's decision to permit up to 87,000 patients to add mobile data from six parameters to a special sequestered section of Cedars-Sinai Health System's Epic-based EHR, available through the provider's patient portal as MyCSLink.


Darren Dworkin

"We were pushing to get patients to use our EMR portal, and we've tried to take it to the next level by putting more useful information into it," says Darren Dworkin, chief information officer at Cedars-Sinai. Patients could already visit the portal and download continuity of care documents (CCDs)—essentially, their medical records. But the parameters gathered by Apple iPhones and iPads and connected devices represent the device's own measurements of the patient's steps, weight, glucose, blood pressure, saturation of peripheral oxygen, and pulse.

"We do have to begin to understand that, more and more, the patient record is going to be a shared tool," he says. "We're still in the very early stages of learning and understanding what all of that means."

So far, about 500 patients have taken up Cedars-Sinai on its offer and connected Apple's HealthKit information hub to their Cedars-Sinai health record. In addition, the health system is preparing to launch programs that, unlike the initial HealthKit integration there, will require clinicians to actively monitor the patient-provided data.


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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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