Healthcare transformation

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Choosing the Right M-Health Tools for the Job

“People will share about their diarrhea on Twitter but they won’t use an app called ‘Diarrhea Near Me” said John Brownstein, Director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Children’s Hospital Boston and founder of HealthMap, on why patient reported outcomes alone won’t solve our data problems in healthcare.

The third day of the M-Health conference coincided with the first day of the Global MHealth Forum, and the keynote presented the most aspirational view of the three conference keynotes.

HealthMap, which was recently acquired by Booz Allen, focuses on mining public data to predict epidemics and to chart the course of infectious diseases. We’ve seen this before with Google Flu Trends, but HealthMap goes beyond what people are searching for crawls over 200,000 websites globally including social media networks, news, government sites. HealthMap uses natural language processing to take it a step further by comparing this data to satellite images to see whether quarantine is working. While HealthMap considers itself a public data set for health, Brownstein is clear that partnerships with private sector are the only way to scale health programs, and that these programs must have a business model. Texting for health scenarios that partner with carriers are a good match. The carriers are looking for new customers, and SMS programs have proven to be very effective in developing countries. In a twist on that model, Orange partnered on a program in Liberia where health workers got free data access to any government health information sites and then used their own data for Facebook and Twitter, capitalizing on human nature that while we might buy our devices for work we spend a lot of time goofing around on them.

Validating Clinical Data To Reinvent Medicine

The second half of the keynote was a panel discussion focused more on how to deal with all of the medical data coming in, and reflected some of the concern and disappointment with sensors and quantified self movement. Even though the hype and funding for these activity tracker and sensor companies does not seem to have cooled off, there are a few issues that the healthcare industry has identified:

  • Too much data that we can’t make sense of. We haven’t previously been capable of tracking people’s vital signs 24/7 during daily life so it’s impossible to know what a “normal” data set looks like.
  • The novelty of trackers wears off after you calibrate. We’ve written about this before. Once you know how many steps something is or how many calories you’re burning, you don’t need to keep wearing the tracker.

Of course, there is also the often-cited issue of doctors not having the time, interest, or financial incentives to look at all this data.

The solution was to look at tracking in context of a care path or a specific issue, and to figure out how to provide insight along with the data both for the consumer and for the healthcare provider. Panelist Bryan Sivak, CTO of the US Department of Health and Human Services said he didn’t just want to know that he slept poorly but why he slept poorly. Sivak also outlined what he saw as the barriers to MHealth really taking off:

  • Questions of data ownership
  • Privacy and data protection issues
  • Standards of care
  • Incentives for providers
  • Design for clinician workflow

None of these are particularly new or daunting, which again points to the need for solid implementation and adoption evidence from m-health vendors.

James Levine, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, wanted more thought put into what data we use and why, and provide the example that many over the counter blood pressure readings are not valid. Levine would like mobile health applications evaluated by the following criteria.

  • What is the medical benefit?
  • Is it cost-effective? What is the return on investment?
  • Is data interoperable? Is data protected?
  • Can you analyze the data the application collects?
  • Can you take action if you need to address something based on patient entered data?
  • How is it reimbursed?
  • Is it constantly improving based on patient input?

Teri Pipe, Dean of ASU College of Nursing, and as the moderator pointed out the only nurse on a panel at the conference, said that the promise of m-health is being able to know when to bring a patient into a clinic for treatment, and allowing them to stay at home when they want it. We would add to that, how do you help them manage when they are at home. She also felt that mobile health held great promise in the hands of nurses who can prevent ER visits from the field while being connected to the healthcare system via mobile. Teri used the example of fire departments having nurses on staff to treat minor trauma and injury onsite rather than sending people to the ER.

This was our first MHealth Summit, although it was the 6th annual, so we can’t compare to previous years. It seems like the overall tone was of cautious optimism. Attendees, panelists, and presenters all firmly believed in the promise of mHealth but there was not enough demostratable evidence, and certainly not enough examples of health systems, payers, and m-health companies overcoming the barriers we have in the market. Hopefully, as the first day keynote asked, 2015 will be the breakout year for MHealth, and we’ll see more success stories, ROI, and clinical validation at the summit next year.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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The Connected Patient Is Here

After either a realistic or pessimistic Day 1 keynote, depending on whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person, Day 2 at the MHealth Summit started with a difficult topic but a much more inspiring message and continued with presentations stressing that patients are already connected and engaged. A bonus for those of you who are counting (XX in Health, Halle Tecco), is that ¾ keynote speakers on this day were women.

Confronting Mental Illness Online

First up was Jen Hyatt (@jennyhyatt) CEO and co-founder of Big White Wall, and online community for mental health. Big White Wall provides an online community for people who are mentally distressed and sometimes suicidal. Jen relayed a heart-breaking story of a possibly preventable suicide, if the person had just had an anonymous place to share what he was feeling. Big White Wall provides a community of people who are trying to self-manage their mental distress with support from clinical process and staff. It does so confidentially and anonymously. Anonymity is a key part of how Big White Wall works. People are more comfortable sharing when they know they won’t be judged and sometimes talking to a machine rather than a person can provide that, to illustrate, Hyatt shared the story of the young autistic boy who made friends with Siri. Hyatt has compared the accuracy of the data behind Big White Wall to predict depression and suicide risk to that of standardized tests, and says that interactions on Big White Wall provide enough information to be as accurate as the tests. Considering the difficulty of getting people to take these tests, and especially those who might not be seeking help for mental illness, this holds great promise for the power of patient (or people) generated data.

Serving the New Connected Patient

Source: MHealth Summit

The connected patient is already here, and she’s a millennial says Janet Schijns, Vice President of Global Verticals and Channel Marketing at Verizon. Schijns used a recent ER visit by her daughter, a college student to elaborate how patients are outpacing hospitals when it comes to digital care. Schijns daughter sprained her ankle badly, while waiting for a nurse to return with discharge instructions, she had already found and watched a video on how to navigate the world on crutches, ordered groceries online so she wouldn’t have go out, and researched how she would be able to get around campus. Schijns posits that healthcare organizations are spending dollars in the wrong areas online because they don’t really understand what patients are looking for. She talked about how patients are creating their own content through community sites like Patients Like Me and filling in gaps in the information the healthcare system is providing.

 Email Is Our Killer Application

Christine Paige, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Internet Services from Kaiser Permanente helped all m-health entrepreneurs in the audience breathe a sigh of relief when she said that Kaiser was not going to get into the m-health app business and instead focus on working with companies that help them improve the patient provider relationship. Paige called email Kaiser’s killer app for two reasons, one is that patients are not able to absorb key information when they’re in the clinic, especially if they’ve had a difficult or surprising diagnosis and second because they want convenience and a connection to their physicians. Kaiser’s patients who engage online are healthier, and only 1/4 emails results in a doctor’s office visit.

While personalized medicine is a hot topic these days, Paige warned against personalization trumping patient privacy and the risk of personalized recommendations being wrong. That is, patients using technology trust their physician with the information, but not necessarily if an application starts intervening and providing recommendations based on that data.

While the day 2 keynote was optimistic about the promise of m-health, it was definitely cautiously optimistic. Patients and providers are still feeling their way through the role of technology in communication and automating care.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Telemedicine

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Healthcare is part of our supply chain: The Boeing Company

The Health Innovator’s Collaborative sponsored by the University of Washington and the WBBA is entering it’s second year and continuing to gain momentum bringing together providers, payers, and health innovators from education, public sector, and industry to discuss hot topics in health. This week marked the second talk in the new season, delivered by Greg Marchand, Director of Benefits and Policy Strategy at The Boeing Company.

BoBoeing is a data-driven company that makes big bets and takes big risks to bring their products to market. This philosophy extends to how they provide employee benefits, and Marchand and team have taken a data-driven approach to healthcare benefits. In the same way that the principles of lean, data-driven decision making, and cost/risk benefit drive decisions across Boeings supply chain, the same rigor has been applied to healthcare benefits. Marchand knows that Boeing’s human resources are a key part of their success and wants to ensure they are working at optimum productivity. The best way to do that is to make sure they are healthy and that they receive the best benefits available. Quality, innovation, advocacy, and service are the influencers of Boeing’s strategy and the differentiators of their benefits.

Boeing made headlines for their “ACO” approach where they contract directly with healthcare providers and negotiate for service and Marchand came to the Health Innovator’s Collaborative to describe how they did it and why this is the model for the future.

Washington Hospitals, Boeing Strike ACO Deal

Boeing Signs Shared Savings Deal With Washington Hospitals

Boeing-Marchand2Marchand kicked off his talk with a personal example of a “defect” in the healthcare system, to his mind a result of healthcare organizations not having a consumer focus. A few years ago, his wife needed to make a doctor’s appointment for their child. She called for an appointment and was told that she could book a time two weeks from that day, which happened to be a Tuesday. Depending on whether you’re going to see a specialist, 2-weeks could be considered an acceptable wait time for an appointment, however, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that if she wanted to book an appointment for another day, say 2 weeks from Wednesday, she’d have to call back on Wednesday to book it. Marchand asked the audience to try to imagine what might happen to a retailer like Nordstrom if they used this archane booking system for their personal shoppers. The system had a flaw, and it’s this type of flaw that Marchand and team are on a mission to correct.

boeing-marchand4To do so, they have partnered with UWMedicine and Swedish/Providence in Washington State to provide care for Boeing employees. They also rely on Cleveland Clinic as a Center of Excellence for cardiovascular care. While Marchand says that he doesn’t want employees to have to travel for care, he also wants them to have the most effective care, which is what drove the partnership. (You could tell that this statement was specifically aimed at attendees from the event’s host: the subtext being that it was possible for them to win this business for Boeing.) Boeing’s “triple aim” is quality, experience, and cost with the goal of improving the employee experience and passing any savings as a result of the new ACO model onto employees. Their expectation is that healthcare partners have these same goals and the same data-driven approach. The challenge for Marchand is the need to find partners in all states where Boeing has employees. While Boeing has a lot of clout with $2.5B in annual healthcare spend covering 500K employees, they don’t have the same economies of scale in all states based on employee number. (ACOs looking to pilot new ideas and test data-driven approaches should definitely consider reaching out to work with Boeing: they are looking for solutions.)

Finding the Defects

Marchand’s focus is on continually improving defects in the system and that includes the patient/provider relationship: making sure patients do what they are supposed to do. It also includes using the appropriate forms of communication and care for the situation. Here he gave two examples: using a house call service from Seattle-based Carena for non-emergency issues, especially with children, and being able to email or text your doctor with simple questions, like how to deal with side effects from prescribed medication. Both of these examples provided a higher level of service to the end-user and also lower costs to the entire system. A Carena house-call is 1/3 of the cost of an emergency room visit and email and texting is more efficient and less expensive than a phone call and most certainly than an office visit.

Understanding Cost Drivers

From all the data analysis, Boeing understands very well where its largest cost drivers are coming from and ways to improve, and from Marchand’s talk it was clear that they were very much in the driver seat in pushing their healthcare partners to innovate. Areas of focus include improving the usability of patient communication tools, managing population health, providing easily actionable data for the clinical team, and using the most appropriate and cost effective methods for care. Marchand gave the example of how incentives need to be better aligned to spend money on physical therapy rather than back surgery: again a situation where the patient experience is dramatically improved and costs are lowered, however incentives must be aligned because today, hospitals make more money on surgery than preventative care. Boeing and the ACO vision of the future changes that of course.

The Q&A portion of the event was quite lively and extended far beyond the allotted time. One notable question was about why other employers are not taking the same approach as The Boeing Company. Marchand wishes they would but acknowledged it’s a lot of effort and certainly the data-driven approach is in Boeing’s DNA. As well, only the largest companies have the resources for this type of undertaking.

If you’re in Seattle and interested in the massive changes coming in health and looking for a community of like-minded people plus lively debate, then we recommend you check out the series. Talks are the first Tuesday of every month. We’ll see you there!

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare, Seattle, Telemedicine

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Improving Healthcare Quality, Costs, and Outcomes in Washington State

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Naysayers who can’t see how healthcare is going to move from a fee-for-service to an outcome and value-based model should look at the work being done by organizations like the Institute for Healthcare Innovation, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely program, and The Bree Collaborative.

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, an initiative in Washington State spearheaded by Governor Christine Gregoire in 2011 and named in memory of a physician who focused on cutting back use of inappropriate medical imaging in the state. The goal of the collaborative is:

“…to provide a mechanism through which public and private health care stakeholders can work together to improve quality, health outcomes, and cost effectiveness of care in Washington State.”

Dr. Robert Bree CollaborativeMembers represent some of the top healthcare organizations in the state, as well as representatives from government, and payers. All meetings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend and provide comments. (At the meeting I attended, most of the public seemed to be made up of healthcare industry folks like myself, although there was one attendee who spoke both as a physician and as a patient.)

The Collaborative’s mandate is to tackle four topics per year for quality and process improvements with the aim of statewide adoption in healthcare. Previous recommendations have included those for total joint replacement which is a hot topic due to new Medicare fines for readmission and lumbar spinal fusion, another hot topic due to the rising costs of back pain to employers, health systems, and in lost productivity. Recommendations include not just process recommendations and standardized ways to track outcomes, but also how to deliver care in a bundle. Payers like bundles because they provide some predictability to costs. Patients like bundles for the predictability of costs but also what they can expect from their care. Bundles pose the greatest challenge for providers, as often many of the services are provided by different organizations, for example skilled nursing or specialized physical therapy. Often surgeons are not even employed directly by the hospital where the patient undergoes a procedure. In this situation the hospital or healthcare organization needs to play quarterback and make sure the other organizations are staying within cost and quality guidelines. Add into this the fact that outcomes are so dependent on patient behavior and you can see what a tall order the Bree Collaborative, and organizations like it, have taken on.

At last week’s meeting topics included updates from groups focused on End of Life Care, Addiction/Dependence Treatment, as well as, an update from the state of Washington on state-wide measures to track quality and outcomes. New initiatives that were approved for 2015 workgroups included Coronary Artery Disease, Prostate Screening, Opioid Use, and Oncology. If you are a patient, provider, or payer stakeholder with an interest in any of these topics, you may want to subscribe to The Bree Collaborative’s newsletter to stay abreast of the workgroup’s progress and any recommendations.

In Western Washington, a new purchasing coalition made up of employers with less than 5000 people has formed. The Northwest Healthcare Purchaser’s Coalition is hoping to drive better outcomes and lower costs by combining the purchasing power of many smaller employers. In particular this group is working with local payers and providers Western Washington to try to lower the costs of back pain by implementing Bree Collaborative Workgroup recommendations at the community level. This means both clinical adoption within local healthcare organizations but also public education and awareness about recommendations for reducing back pain.

Going back to the quote from Margaret Mead that started this post, there is no doubt that The Bree Collaborative members are thoughtful, committed, and working for change. Possibly the one thing that is missing is more voices from citizens. All meetings are open to the public. If you have personal experience either positive or negative, especially around care, outcomes, and costs for any of the topics that the Bree is tackling, you’d be welcome at the next public forum. See you there?

And if you’re not in Washington State, there are initiatives like this going on across the United States. Not all are as friendly to the general public, but it’s our health and everyone needs to find a way to participate.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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White Coat, Black Art

Dr. Brian Goldman, photo source: http://www.cbc.ca

If you’re interested in an informative and entertaining podcast that explores medicine warts and all, we highly recommend subscribing to Dr. Brian Goldman’s “White Coat, Black Art.” Dr. Goldman is a Toronto ER physician and living in the land of socialized medicine with a less litigious population enables him to speak more candidly about taboo subjects like doctor’s errors. That said, the first time he admitted medical mistakes while extremely cathartic for him and his patients, caused a furor in the physician community with concerns about future lawsuits. Interestingly, Dr. Goldman noted that admitting mistakes and apologizing made patients and families less likely to sue.

You can hear about this at “After the Error.”

Another more recent podcast that caught our attention was on Lean Healthcare. (Featured is the hospital I was born in, in Kitchener, Ontario.) Interestingly, only days after the episode was aired the government of Saskatchewan pulled the plug on their $40M lean overall of the system. While some significant quality improvements have definitely resulted from a lean healthcare approach, we have noticed that the expense of lean processes are sometimes prohibitive for initial projects. That is, the people and process costs of lean might make the overall project more effective and efficient but the startup costs are high. Ironic isn’t it? Of course Toyota hasn’t been upholding the quality standards they have been known for recently either. I suppose this is why in software development, lean is also equated with agile. It’s not good enough to look at making sure your processes are effective, you also need to understand how to implement quickly and cheaply. Not an easy proposition.

You can listen to White Coat, Black Art live on CBC and CBC streaming or on demand podcasts on CBC’s website.

 

 

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare

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Using Homecare For Positive Change in Healthcare

The week before last, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Collaborative for Integrated Home Care Aid Innovation Symposium: a group of committed individuals and organizations that passionate about improving healthcare through home care. The goal of the summit, organized by the SEIU union for healthcare workers was to apply the “Triple Aim” principles to home care. With the realization that our current systems cannot support the increase in chronic disease and the aging population, the group was looking for innovative solutions through people, process, and technology, that could provide preventative care and follow-up care in a community setting.

The State of Washington

Washington State CareBill Moss, Assistant Secretary for Aging and Long-Term Support, kicked off the day with a sobering look at the statistics for Washington State. While the number of people in nursing homes has declined by 7,000 since 1993, and more people are cared for in their homes, which provides a better quality of life, the complexity of health issues affecting the population has dramatically increased. In addition to being the preference of patients, at-home care is less expensive. If today we had as many people in long-term care facilities as 1993, it would cost the state an extra $200 M annually, so that’s good news.

Recognizing this benefit, but also understanding the increasing complexity of patients, provides a starting point for improving and supporting the role of home care workers to support more people aging at home. While return-on-investment studies are few and far between, the general understanding of participants is that keeping people out of long-term care facilities can provide financial subsidies to people in long-term care. For example, for the annual cost of one person in a nursing home, $17,500, three patients can be cared for in their homes.Medications Taken By Clients in Washington State

Clinical Care Needs for Washington StateTo support these home care workers and their patients, new training needs to be developed to address some of the top health risks and preventative medicine including nutritional needs, fall risk, and mobility support. By helping people improve their health, we can save money and also improve quality of life.

Continuing on the data wallow, Lili Hay a researcher with Milliman, an independent consulting and actuarial firm, shared a deep dive into the situation in Washington and the complexity of patients that require home care, for example 40% of Medicare patients take 5 or more medications and most have more than one issue.

The Penn Center for Community Health Workers

Next up, Casey Chanton, a social worker and project manager at the Penn Center for Community Health Workers in Philadelphia talked about a unique program for training community leaders as health workers. In dealing with patients from low-income, high-health risk neighborhoods, physicians and patients had both expressed frustration with the gap between what physicians prescribed and the reality of patient’s lives. Physicians might tell a patient to eat a low sodium diet while the patient would be getting most of their meals from a food bank and have little or no control over what they ate. Both felt helpless to bridge the gap. Enter the community health worker. The program trained natural leaders from within these high-risk communities. These leaders visit patients in their homes and help them get the support they needed within the constraints of their own lives.

Not surprisingly, most of the issues were not medical but related to their living situations, income, and access to services. The best recruits to be community health workers were people who listened more than they talked and were non-judgmental. They helped patients set goals that were attainable by using patient-centered goal setting coupled with achievable steps.

Results of the program are impressive and really speak for themselves:

You can learn more about the center and the program here: http://chw.upenn.edu/

Panels on Technology Innovation and Practice Solutions

The next two sessions were panels, one on technology innovation and the second on practice options. There was too much good information for me to summarize everything, so I’ll stick to the major themes.

  • Post-acute care costs are the fastest rising and most variable care costs, so finding a way to manage them is key.
  • Technology is not the solution, people and process are the solution, but technology can help.
  • People of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds can be use technology (although possibly not EMR interfaces—this isn’t a reflection on the people 😉 )
  • If we could start from scratch designing a health system, we would never have designed the siloed-system we have today.
  • Issues of care coordination are causing post-acute care to be the fastest rising cost in healthcare today, even though readmissions are falling
  • Homecare needs to be structured around outcomes not having homecare workers check off task lists
  • Even if the payment models aren’t there yet, we need to take best practices and move forward.
  • Even if all the research isn’t in, we need to take best practices and move forward.
  • Even if healthcare administration isn’t ready for it, we need to take best practices and move forward.

During the panels and Q&A we heard from a few of the homecare workers in the audience about the impact they’ve had on people’s lives because they do what’s right and not what’s required. Particularly striking was the story from a woman who talked about caring for one of her patients who needed to go into a nursing home temporarily after surgery. The nursing home was understaffed so the homecare worker visited her patient there multiple times a day to make sure he was being turned in his bed. She did this because she cared about her patient and she wanted to make sure when he was released back into her care he wasn’t in worse condition than when he entered the nursing home. Rather than consider the negative aspects of this anecdote, let’s look at the amazing resource that exists in home care workers who spend more time with patients than their medical professionals and sometimes their families. That was the point of the day: what can we do to help scale this valuable resource and empower them to help patients even more.

Posted in: Aging, Behavior Change, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Managing Chronic Disease

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Should Patients set SMART or MEANING(ful) Goals?

Goal setting provides incentive, improves adherence, and helps measure progress. Right? Maybe. Presenters in the session “Goal Setting in Rehabilitation: Theory, Practice, Evidence” at the annual American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine conference in Toronto were consistent in their believe that goal setting is important for rehabilitation but also pointed out a lack of evidence and a distinct lack of consistency in application. It seems that goal setting theory in healthcare has been largely borrowed from business and sports, and while it makes sense that goal setting should help patients, there is not a lot of decisive evidence and there is a lot of debate on how goals should be set.

Does goal setting work?

A survey of the clinical research on goal-setting in rehabilitation showed that goal setting didn’t improve physical function, however it did improve patient self-efficacy. Evidence was inconclusive on whether goal setting affected motivation, adherence, or engagement. However, the overall analysis showed a statistically significant difference in favor of goal setting. The issue is how goals are set and could setting them differently improve care.

How are goals set?

Currently the usual care condition for setting goals is having healthcare professionals set them instead of patients. The problem with this is that the goals may be SMART, but they are not meaningful for the patients. There is often a mismatch between patient and physician goals: physician goals are often functional goals and patient goals are quality of life or aspirational goals. Since goal seems to have a bigger impact on intrinsic factors, like efficacy and possibly also satisfaction, it seems that patient-directed goals would be more effective.

The following are “SMART goals” adapted to apply in rehabilitation. However, the speakers adapted them slightly to apply more directly to rehabilitation. (Assignable rather than achievable.)

Specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time bound
 
 

How should goals be set?

Goals that help a patient connect with their care plan are preferred, for example, goals that fit the following criteria.

MEANING goal setting

 

While presenter Kath McPherson from the Auckland Institute of Technology argued that patient goals could be vague and also asked why goals had to be realistic: wasn’t it better that the patient continued to hope and work towards something, William M. M. Levack the concept of helping patients set “fiduciary” goals. That is, guide the patients goals based on the situation more initially and less as the patient gained autonomy. To illustrate this he used the example of Mr Roberts a blind diabetic amputee who had a goal of going home to live. If Mr. Roberts’ goal were the only thing taken into consideration, it would ignore the realistic factors that might not make this possible, for example, his wife’s ability to care for him. As such, a better approach for goal setting for Mr. Roberts was to consider a number of factors including:

  • The values and preferences of the patient
  • Clinical judgment of the healthcare professional
  • Time and resources required for the goal
  • Likely consequences of pursuing the goal

For Mr. Roberts, this approach would look like this:

value pluralism in goal setting

The takeaway from these sessions was the necessity to link the clinicians small functional goals with the patients big aspirational goals. Functional goals are necessary and will measure progress but aspirational goals are what drives patient self efficacy which is so important for recovery.

 

We think a lot about goal setting and patient reported outcomes at Wellpepper. Patient reported outcomes are great tools to show progress and also validate clinical efficacy but they must be linked to patient’s goals for real impact. We’re working on some interesting ways to do this through our technology and are excited to be able to share this with the rehabilitation medicine community.

Posted in: Adherence, Behavior Change, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare transformation, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation Business

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Pushing, Pulling, Nudging and Tipping Healthcare Evidence Into Practice: Highlights from ACRM

We’re just back from 2 weeks on the road visiting Wellpepper customers and also attending the Annual Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine conference in Toronto where our research partners at Boston University presented the preliminary results from a study they’ve been working on. We’re so pleased and impressed with the results, but if you weren’t at the Congress, you’ll need to wait until November when we can share final results with you.

In the meantime, you can follow our recaps from some of the sessions we were fortunate to attend atIMG_0325 the conference. While the conference was heavily research-based (subtitled, “Progress in Rehabilitation Researchers), most researchers were affliated with teaching hospitals so that research could be put into practice. Also striking about this event, compared to many other healthcare conferences, is the team-based care and interdisciplinary nature of the presentations. Most presentations features care or research teams that included professionals with varying backgrounds including physicians, surgeons, dieticians, registered nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Another striking difference was that while everyone was striving toward repeatable outcomes, rehabilitation medicine requires a level of personalization that is specific to each patient’s ability.

Keynote: Pushing, Pulling, Nudging and Tipping Evidence Into Practice: Experience From the Frontline Implementing Best Practices in Rehabilitation

Dr. Mark Bayley from University Health Networks, and the University of Toronto kicked off the ACRM conference with a challenge to researchers to shorten the distance between research and implementation using techniques from other disciplines. His talk highlighted the challenges and provided solutions in a snappy and entertaining manner.

The Problem with Information Dissemination

To illustrate the problem, Dr. Bayley launched the talk by describing with the 386 year path from when Vasco da Gama observed scurvy in his ship’s crew to the implementation of vitamin C (or citrus juice in particular) as a protocol in the British navy. Although da Gama’s crew recovered from scurvy when given citrus fruit in India, the connection somehow was not made, and there’s a long history of sailors dying from scurvy, until the first ‘clinical trial’ when James Lind ran a 6-armed comparative study at sea and proved that citrus or vitamin C cured scurvy. Another 40 years passed before the British Navy adopted citrus as a standard.

Lest anyone in the audience start to feel smug about advances from scientific discovery to implementation today, Dr. Bayley revealed that it currently takes discoveries and new methods 17 years to get from research to implementation. He then spent the rest of the talk providing concrete suggestions that researchers could use to try to change this.

Researchers are often very focused on publishing, it’s how they are evaluated. However, publishing information and hoping that someone reviews it and sees the value is not enough to drive change into clinical practice. To put this into perspective, Dr. Bayley quizzed the audience on how many articles a healthcare professional would have to read each year to stay on top of all the research. The answer: 7300 or 20 articles each day. Compare this to the 1 hour of reading per week that most practicing healthcare professionals can manage, and you’ll see very clearly why best practices derived through research are often lost and not implemented. With only 1 hour per week for reading, is it any wonder most healthcare professionals get their information from their peers?

Barriers to Implementing New Methods from Research

As well, it’s not enough to provide recommendations but researchers must provide guidelines for how they should be implemented and understand the types of organizational barriers to implementation.

Barriers can include:

  • Individual perceptions
  • Complexity of solution
  • People who will need to adopt the new practice
  • Where the new practice will need to be implemented

Other things to consider are who will deliver the care, what stage of recovery the patient is in, the amount of time available with the patient, and the expected outcomes. Rehabilitation medicine adds an additional level of complexity to writing general implementation guidelines as each stage of recovery is different and requires it’s own care path, and the level of specificity for each is high.
Personal Barriers

When considering the people who will implement the guidelines from the research, many factors will impact their openness and ability to implement, including:

  • Knowledge: Does the person understand the research?
  • Skills: Does the research require the healthcare professional to learn new skills?
  • Social role: Does the healthcare professionals role within the healthcare system give them the authority or autonomy to implement the solution?
  • Beliefs: Do their beliefs in their capabilities or in the consequences of implementing the solution interfere with a successful outcome?
  • Motivation: Are they properly motivated or incentivized to implement the solution? For example, does the way they are compensated cause issues with implementation?
  • Emotion: Are their any emotional beliefs that will interfere with implementation, for example: “this is different than what I learned in school”?

Organizational Barriers

In addition to barriers that may arise through the people who are implementing research, there are many possible organizational barriers to implementation. These include:

  • Practice: How does the new method fit in with what is currently practiced?
  • Resources: Are the right people and skills available to implement?
  • Legal: Are their legal or regulatory issues that could block implementation?
  • Cost: Is it too expensive to implement? Are financial incentives aligned? (Of course the biggest issue here is always “Is it billable?”
  • Physical layout: Does the implementation require a change in the physical layout of the care center?
  • Time: Do staff have adequate time to understand the new procedure? Does the new procedure take longer than the time available?
  • Staff turnover: Can this new practice be maintained if staff change?
  • Equipment: Does it require new equipment to be purchased? Is it in the budget? Is it difficult to learn?
  • Communications: Does the practice require new ways of communicating between disciplines, within teams, and between patients and providers?

So should we give up?

To contrast the almost 400 years to recognize the treatment of scurvy, Dr. Bayley provided the example of how the use of general anesthetic spread thousands of miles from the UK to France and Germany in only a few months, and to widespread adoption within 2 years. Although the knowledge of properties of gases like either goes back further, the main adoption was relatively quick between demonstrations in 1844 and widespread adoption in 1846. The fast adoption stemmed from two factors: it was better for the patient and easier for the surgeon to operate on a patient that wasn’t squirming around.

What makes an invention or a new process sticky is that it’s good for providers and good for patients. (We would add to that in the US, it needs to be good for payers.)

Dr. Bayley then went on to provide some practical and possibly new advice for the best ways to effect change starting with things that don’t work within healthcare settings.

Methods that won’t effect change

  • Pamphlets
  • Total quality measures
  • Lectures

Methods that will effect some change

  • Patient driven or mediated
  • Conferences

Methods that will effect real change

  • Reminder systems (like hand washing)
  • Mass media for patients but will also impact providers
  • Financial incentives
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration

More practically, finding champions and interdisciplinary teams to implement changes, figuring out how the change relates to financial incentives, either the fear of losing money or the opportunity to gain money, and finding opinon leaders to publicize the changeDoctor-Recommeds-ProduceFinally Dr. Bayley introduced the theory of nudges and benevolent paternalism, or the idea that if you can make it easier for someone to do the desired behavior than the usual behavior they will. To illustrate this point, he showed a picture of an escalator and stairs, with an outline of a slim figure pointing to the stairs and a pudgy figure pointing to the escalator. Not quite as cheeky was a UK campaign that had pictures of local family physicians next to the fresh ruit and vegetable aisle asking people to eat more healthily which caused a 20% increase in produce sales.

This was a great talk to start the conference as it provided concrete advice for the presenters of all the great innovations over the next few days to get their advances into clinical practice in a period shorter than the current 17 years, because heaven knows our health system needs the nudge.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare transformation, Rehabilitation Business

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Helping Patients Protect Their Own Personal Health Information

Last week I was leaving a meeting at a large hospital when I saw a patient record sitting on top of the payment machine in the parking garage. Incredibly this is the second time that I’ve seen documents left here. People put them down when they pull out their wallets to pay for parking and then walk away.

Patient Record on ParkingThe information the patients left behind included treatment plan instructions – so you can be pretty sure they are not doing their follow up home care – but worse than that it contained a schedule of future appointments with the patient’s name, date of birth, and social security number. Yes, you read that right: a perfect package for anyone practicing identity theft. This was all on a page that was printed directly from the EMR. The DOB and SSN were probably included on the record to verify that the information was for the correct patient, but this could be verified by asking the patient without printing it on a schedule of appointments.

So – first things first – I took the paper records back into the hospital. But afterwards it got me thinking about information protection and privacy, and in particular about the many people who still think that a paper print out is more secure than the cloud.

Although concerns about information protection and privacy are valid, many of the major HIPAA breaches of the last few years have had nothing to do with the cloud and usually are related to human error and not great security practices.

A few examples:

Good protection of patient information is important whether that information is in the cloud, on an internal computer or system, or on paper. HIPAA regulations encourage building good encrypted software, however we also need to have safeguards to protect against human error.

If patient information were in the cloud, the patient would either access the information through a secure portal, email, or application on their mobile device. He or she would then authenticate themselves to receive the information, and would not need to worry about accidentally forgetting their treatment plans sitting on a parking payment machine.

While patients expect to be able to interact with their healthcare providers through portals and mobile applications in the same way they interact with their banks, many healthcare CIOs we’ve encountered are still extremely wary of cloud-based systems. Financial services is another heavily regulated industry that has been able to successfully move to the cloud to better serve its customers.

Wellpepper is a cloud-based application, which in the healthcare world, makes us a business associate and on the hook for any breaches of patient health information. On the hook means that we need to sign a HIPAA agreement with any organization and we have liability for breaches of information. This is a job we take very seriously and we do our utmost to protect all information that flows through Wellpepper. This includes encrypting information at rest and in transit, ensuring strong passwords, and conducting audits of our system as well as making sure we are well-insured.

With Wellpepper, we provide the same level of encryption and safeguards to the patient’s own device as we do on the clinical devices. Information is not stored locally so if a device is lost or stolen there is much lower risk than in the laptop examples. Patient can do whatever they like with their own data. If I want to post my x-rays on the lamppost in-front of my house I can do that. However, that doesn’t mean that a healthcare organization should facilitate me in sharing my personal health information, which is actually significantly easier with paper-based systems than cloud based.

Yes this information would have been transferred over the Internet which could leave it open for hacking but a secure cloud system is no less, and sometimes more secure than internal IT systems which are also vulnerable. The key is to ensure that everyone in the chain, from internal IT to external partners, and finally to the providers and the patients understands the importance of protecting health data, and has the tools they need to do so, whether that’s on paper, online, or in the cloud.

Posted in: Data Protection, Health Regulations, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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Post or Perish? Disseminating Scientific Research and the Kardashian Index

Publish or perish has long been the mantra of academic research. While this used to be limited to peer-reviewed journals, researchers are increasingly needing to include public outreach through social media to their list of communication vehicles. A recent panel at the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology conference this week in Seattle tackled this problem with some practical advice. With a focus on the environmental factors that can impact public health, the researchers at this conference have a definite need to reach a broad audience base not just to justify their grant money but to positively impact public health and the environment with their findings.

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating scientific research to the general population is not an easy task. Media outlets like easy wins and definitive statements, but research results often need the fine print to be fully understood, and the fine print often contains details like study methodology or influencing factors that either are too complicated for the general public or limit the results of the findings to very specific situations. For example, perhaps a drug proves effective but only in left-handed blind mice that could play the tuba. This might be a big scientific breakthrough pointing towards broader benefits, but it’s not conclusive enough for media that want to say things like “New drug 100% effective” not “Drug thought to be effective in tuba-playing left-handed blind mice.”

One audience member, who worked in communications for a large research organization summed up this problem as ‘if a headline meets my criteria no media outlet would pick it up.’ That is, by the time the headline was completely scientifically unambiguous, like our blind mice example, it didn’t seem like news.

The session featured real world examples and best practices from http://escapeproject.eu/ and from the NIH. The Escape project was a multi-year study to evaluate the effects of air pollution from birth to death across a wide range of respiratory and other illnesses. You can understand why getting this information beyond academic readers to the general public is so important.

Some tips:

  • The communications plan needs to be part of the grant-writing process, and for studies that impact public health, you need to think beyond PubMed to the general press and social media.
  • Know what channels your audience accesses. Are they on Twitter or Facebook or maybe print media?
  • Understand what larger story your research is part of and position it within that context. For example, for Escape, it’s the impact of air pollution on health.
  • Understand the implications of your research for the general public. What action do you want them to take based on your findings?
  • Avoid scientific jargon.
  • Make sure you can distill the main message from the study, and as conclusively as possible within the parameters of your research topic.
  • Leverage partner organizations for their press and communications contacts and to disseminate the message. For example, the Escape project used respiratory related health organizations to help spread the word about their findings.
  • Photos can be a powerful way to get attention and disseminate information. Here Escape found that photos of major cities obliterated by smog were very effective to accompany news articles about their study results.
  • Don’t dismiss the Kardashian Index. Some researchers downplay the value of social media because the most popular scientists on social media are often doing the least amount of research and possibly not the best researchers. However rather than making them shy away from social media as a result, the presenters urged the audience to participate more actively to make sure their voices and research were heard. Popularity and valid information do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Do's and Don'ts for Social Media for Researchers

Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media for Researchers

As active social media participants here at Wellpepper, we have a couple of additional recommendations for researchers:

  • Try not to name your study with an acronym. Studies usually have very long names and then acronyms are coined as a short cut. However, they usually don’t convey the actual meaning of the study. “Escape” is an acronym for European Study for Air Pollution Effects. How about “Smog Europe?” ;). A descriptive name with a subtitle is a lot easy for the general public and news media to grasp.
  • Infographics can be a great way to communicate a lot of data-rich information like this one from the NIH about social media influence within a online medical community. Put your contact and study information on the infographic and make it easy for people to redistribute. (We didn’t include the NIH graphic here because it required emailing them for permission.)

Even within the session attendees that represented researchers from across the globe and in all career stages, there was a great digital divide. One young researcher implored her older colleagues to use Facebook to engage with scientists and potential scientists of her generation. She also mentioned that it was a great place to recruit study subjects. Another researcher from Chile talked about the power of social media for collecting data: getting reports from people on the ground who were facing environmental health challenges. This could have been a topic unto itself, and if more deeply explored might have convinced some of the more curmudgeonly audience members who were concerned about the current proliferation of communications channels, lack of ubiquitous digital access, and a worldwide decline in scientific literacy.

In the age of social media, the idea of publish or perish takes on new relevance and meaning, and hopefully scientists and researchers understand that embracing these new ways to engage directly with the general public will amplify the impact of their work.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Social Media, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Patient Engagement: From Idea to Proof

In the last year, patient engagement has gone from buzzword to a clinically proven solution to rising healthcare costs. A study published in 2013 in Health Affairs found that engaged patients in the first year of the study were 8% less expensive that non-engaged patients in the base year. As the years progressed and the impact of some of the behaviors of non-engaged patients like diet, exercise, and smoking had a bigger impact, the gap was expected to widen.  Cost drivers were use of emergency room services and hospitalization of these non-engaged patients.medicalperson

“Patients With Lower Activation Associated With Higher Costs; Delivery Systems Should Know Their Patients’ ‘Scores”http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/2/216.full?sid=bd3de9e3-8393-4553-bf75-ebb537b75905

At the same time, technology has been heralded as the solution for engaging patients, and the quantified self-movement was the poster child for tracking health metrics. The problem is that the people who were doing all this tracking were pretty engaged to begin with and therefore not representative of the population as a whole. Other solutions used rewards for behavior change, like gift cards or donations to favorite charities. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that these types of rewards systems are good at enrolling patients in health engagement programs but not good at helping them sustain good habits. http://mobihealthnews.com/35244/study-rewards-boost-enrollment-but-not-sustained-engagement/

personA combination of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards is seen to be much more motivating. Intrinsic rewards are the ones that are built directly into an experience, for example Facebook likes or Twitter retweets. We know from our experience at Wellpepper that a combination of intrinsic rewards coupled with the accountability through a connection with the healthcare provider creates more adherent patients and better outcomes. Our patient engagement rates hover around 70% (compared to 2-3% for some EHR portals), and we have some providers with patients who are 100% adherent to their treatment plans. Look for more news on this topic in the fall of 2014 when we release the results of some clinical studies that use Wellpepper.

Technology for health-related behavior change is still in its infancy. However, with the right combinations of factors that motivate patients, the benefits are clear: better engagement and better outcomes. For patients, using technology for health engagement provides them with convenient and cost effective solutions. There are also benefits across the health system.

Using technology for patient engagement can enable:

  • Remote care and monitoring. This covers both outpatient discharge and aging in place. Enabling people to recover or live at home longer improves their experience and lowers overall healthcare costs. New models of care are also possible as remote communication can employ specialists in different areas of the country or the world.

“There is a nationwide shortage of such critical-care specialists, known as “intensivists,” so the idea is that these doctors can monitor more patients remotely than if they were on-site at a single hospital.” USA Today

  • medical bldgOperating at the top of your license. Predicted shortages of primary care physicians due to an increased demand from more coverage and an aging population are not overstated. Technology that enables physicians to scale their abilities to cover patients by offloading some care and monitoring to other disciplines like nurse practitioners can help ease this burden.

“We use what we call Teamlettes. A group of people assigned to every patient. Administrative, clinical, psychiatric, all of us working at the top of our license, because there’s a lot of stuff done in medicine that can be done at other levels.” Mike Witte, Medical Director Coastal Health Alliance

  • Patient-reported data. Patient-data is already in our systems, from patient interviews, however it’s inputted by healthcare professionals and relies on patient memory of previous events. Enabling patients to enter health data as they experience it can result in more accurate information and also a more efficient in-person visit as the healthcare professional and patient can review what’s been entered rather than trying to remember what happened over the course of several days or weeks between in-person visits.

“Patient-created, and patient-curated information is the key to the future. We need to build tools that are based on this assumption. They need to be in line with what consumers are accustomed to in other aspects of their lives – they need to work on mobile devices as well as the web.” Robert Rowley, MD 

  • Community support. Engaging community organizations in helping patients, is both beneficial and cost-effective. Community organizations and centers can play an active role in helping people manage their health. Enabling patients to have key health-related information with them outside the clinic can help professionals like fitness or diet coaches engage. Providing the patient with ways to engage around their health in a community setting can help encourage and foster new habits. Medicare is piloting a number of programs designed to increase community involvement and decrease readmissions.
  • Managing groups of people. Websites like “Patients Like Me” and “Ben’s Friends” started as grassroots patient support groups facilitated by the vast reach of the Internet. If patients can meet and discuss their health, healthcare organizations should also be able to facilitate the management of people with similar issues. Technology can facilitate the ability to send similar treatment plans, communication, and tips to groups of people.

This is just the beginning of what’s possible. Technology advances will facilitate new ways of monitoring, communicating, and engaging that we haven’t even considered. We’re pretty excited about how engaging patients can improve outcomes and ultimately result in major positive changes in the health of countries and the way care is delivered. It’s still early days and patients, providers, insurers, and technologists are all still learning but there is so much opportunity to have a real impact.

Posted in: Adherence, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation

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Healthcare Transformation Summer Reading List: 7 Thought-Provoking Recommendations

FeetHeading to the beach, lake, or forest soon? Looking for something that will stimulate your thinking and have you heading back to work with inspiration and new ideas? Interested in new ways of looking at the world and ways to improve your organization?

We’ve rounded up some books that have inspired and even entertained us on big topics like motivation, behavior change, and the challenges and solutions in healthcare today. In no particular order, here are some ideas for summer reading that will get you thinking differently. (And no, we’re not an Amazon affiliate so we don’t make money if you buy after clicking through.)

Behavioral Health, Habits, and Economics

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Richard H. Thaler  (Author), Cass R. Sunstein

calmSynopsis: Research-based with practical examples of how small ‘nudges’ can alter behavior in predictable ways. Great for both micro-changes in your own behavior and thinking about human behavior as a whole. Unfortunately, like many of the books in this section, you’ll learn from this one that we very often do not make choices that are in our best interests.

Quotable: “The nudge provided by asking people what they intend to do can be accentuated by asking them when and how they plan to do it.”

Why You Should Read It: Who doesn’t want to make better decisions about health, wealth, and happiness? 😉

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

Synopsis: Examines human behavior by looking at scientific research on habits, and even addictions, and combines that with examples of how companies have exploited these traits to ‘help’ us create new habits that include their products. Helpful to understand your own behavior and think about how to influence others either individually or collectively.

Quotable: “Studies of people who have successfully started new exercise routines, for instance, show they are more likely to stick with a workout plan if they choose a specific cue, such as running as soon as they get home from work, and a clear reward, such as a beer or an evening of guilt-free television.”

Why You Should Read It: Clearly breaks down behaviors and gives real examples of where we have all formed habits even without knowing it. Uses case studies from the masters of habit influencing: consumer packaged goods companies, with a particularly interesting story about why Febreeze smells the way it does.

GameFrame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success

Synopsis: This book tackles game mechanics and explains them in a way to make them applicable to anything you’re doing. It explains why games are addictive, but more than that equates them to behaviors and habits that we can apply to business and life. Although game mechanics are the framework for the book, it’s really about human behavior and motivation and how games capitalize on it.

Quotable: “Seeing progress is motivation. We derive satisfaction not from the moment, but from looking back and seeing how far we’ve come.”

Why You Should Read It: If you like games, you’ll understand better what makes them so appealing. If you’re not a gamer you’ll learn that gaming techniques and intrinsic rewards are part of everyday experiences that are pleasurable or sticky.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decision

Dan Ariely

Synopsis: Master of behavioral economics Dan Ariely explains why although we think we are making rational decisions we are actually making irrational decisions and yet there is still a method to this madness. That is, you can actually predict in what circumstances people will make irrational decisions that are potentially against their best interests.

Quotable: “money, as it turns out, is the most expensive way to motivate people. Social norms are not only cheaper, but often more effective as well.”

Why You Should Read It: Unlike many other books on behavior that provide a summary of research from many sources, in this book Ariely summarizes his own research which makes his insights both deeper and funnier. For example, this Duke University professor impersonates a waiter and takes beer orders in a pub in one experiment.

Healthcare Transformation

The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare

Eric Topol, M.D.

Synopsis: Not afraid to be provocative, and pulling no punches, Dr Topol takes on the US healthcare system and what’s wrong with the way medicine is practiced today both as a system and in individual patient/provider relationships. Topol is an early evangelist of how big-data can be used to deliver personalized medicine. If you’re interested in what all the fuss is on big data, this is a great primer.

Quotable: “Many patients now trust their peers on social networks—online medical communities such as PatientsLikeMe—more than their physicians.”

Why You Should Read It: Some of the examples, especially in genomics, seem far out, but they’re closer that you can imagine.

The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution For Healthcare

Clayton Christensen, Jerome Grossman, MD, Jason Huang, MD

Synopsis: Clayton Christensen turns his “innovator’s dilemma” theory towards healthcare with the help of medical experts Dr. Jason Huang and Dr. Jerome Grossman to shine light on waste and mis-incentives in the current system and provides strong cases for how to change it.

Quotable: “There are more than 9,000 billing codes for individual procedures and units of care. But there is not a single billing code for patient adherence or improvement, or for helping patients stay well.”

Why You Should Read It: In comparing hospitals to mainframe computers the authors use an already played out technology industry scenario to foreshadow what could happen in healthcare.

Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center’s Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience

Charles Kenney

Synopsis: Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is a leader in applying kaizen or lean manufacturing techniques to healthcare. This book chronicles how they went from near bankruptcy to becoming a model of efficiency. It provides real examples and pulls no punches on the bumps along the way.

Quotable: “Change or die”

Why You Should Read It: While the mechanics of how Virginia Mason improved processes with a lean model are fascinating, the culture and people change that had to happen for the new model is just as interesting.

If you don’t like any of these options, we’re also reading HL7/ASTM Implementation Guide for CDA® R2 -Continuity of Care Document (CCD®) Release 1 😉

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation

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Best Practices in Healthcare Software Usability from the American Telemedicine Conference

BaltimoreA few weeks ago, Wellpepper took a road trip to the American Telemedicine Association conference in Baltimore. In addition to exhibiting and presenting at the venture summit, we also had the opportunity to attend a couple of the pre-conference sessions, which had some excellent content. In particular, one topic that we wanted to highlight was the Human Factors in Telemedicine session.

The session was presented by  Patrick Boissy, PhD, Neil Charness, PhD, and Elizabeth Krupinski, PhD. The focus of this session was on HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) and usability – some of the key tenets that we’ve held from the beginning while we built Wellpepper. Based on some of the healthcare-focused software we’ve seen, there is lots of opportunity here. It’s a shame the session wasn’t better attended, but in fairness it was also at 8am on a Sunday.

Dr. Boissy started by illustrating the importance of Human Factors Engineering with two case studies. First he examined Healthcare.gov. He pointed out many engineering failures that have been well documented in the press, the biggest of which was the limited end-to-end testing, which in some cases didn’t even happen until after the launch. Second, Dr. Boissy walked through a study by Desroches, C.M. et al (2013) on EHR adoption. Looking through the taxonomy of barriers to adoption, Human Factors issues are some of the most-cited barriers to technological acceptance of EHR systems. Essentially: doctors and nurses have trouble using the systems.

While EHR and EMR systems are certainly solving a difficult problem, there seems to be a cognitive disconnect in a world where you can go to an Apple Store and buy an iPhone that is easy enough for 2 years olds to use. If highly educated clinicians have trouble using Healthcare IT, what hope is there for the rest of us?

One theme that emerged throughout the morning is that usability is not something can be added on later – it’s infused throughout the software engineering process. This starts at requirements gathering, includes frequent iteration with user feedback, and may culminate in formal user-centric measurements of acceptance.

One practical technique that was shared is Contextual Inquiry – essentially sitting down with the user in a room, watching them perform tasks with prototypes or functioning software, and using this as an opportunity to understand the user’s thought process and conceptual model. It’s also a good opportunity to gather quantitative metrics like time-to-task, enabling you to measure improvements in your product as you iterate.

It’s a deceptively simple idea, but ever since I started using CI during my time at Microsoft, I can attest that it’s a wonderfully powerful technique that almost forces you to build user-centric products. At Microsoft, we had fancy usability labs with cameras, eye trackers, and one-way mirrors, but the technique can be applied simply, and frankly most effectively when you just get out and go visit users. Even just a few users can make a huge difference. I recall one time where my team and I had spent several weeks building a super-smart machine-learned recommender system, but when we put it in front of a user for the first time and gave them a task, they said something to the effect of “okay… but why do I want this?”. Back to the drawing board. This is actually pretty typical. As software professionals, regardless of how well we think we understand the problem, the first time we put a prototype in front of users, I’m never surprised to hear something that causes a big reset because it’s so easy to make false assumptions early on in the design process. One hint: always capture video when you do CI – it’s amazing how much depth you can extract from an hour-long conversation.

Dr. Charness went on to describe some of the specific challenges of building usable patient-facing healthcare solutions. He argued that even something as simple and pervasive as the pill bottle can be hostile to users, and is emblematic of the usability issues in healthcare IT. “Pill bottles seem fine when you have 20/20 vision, good fine-motor control, and are in a brightly lit office. But what about the diabetic patient who lives in a trailer with a single 60W lightbulb?” This is an area where pharmaceutical retailers like Target have been innovating.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Telemedicine

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IT Can Make a Big Difference in Healthcare, Why Hasn’t It?

The final in the excellent collaborative healthcare series from the University of Washington and the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical association did not necessarily end the series on a high note: speaker Peter Neupert presented a view of the near-term realities of healthcare evolution that was sobering for technology vendors. Basically Neupert’s thesis (and investing thesis) is that technology alone cannot have an impact on healthcare process and outcome improvement, and that pure technical solutions are doomed in the current situation where there is a lack of symmetry between the recipient of service and the payer of the service.Determinants of Health

The benefit of technology historically has been to create efficiencies and economies of scale by reducing manual efforts and waste. In the current system, the payers are incented to decrease costs, however, the way many providers are paid (fee for service) result in no incentives for them to reduce cost. Also, we currently have a disjointed system where payers and employers are responsible for the health of people until age 65 and the government is responsible afterwards, which is not conducive to preventative medicine or efforts to help the long-term health of the population.  Changes in healthcare models as part of the Affordable Care Act will drive the need for providers to be concerned about both population and long-term health but right now, we are in transition, which is why Neupert is betting (at least in the mid-term) on services that are delivered with technology rather than technology on its own unlike other industries. Neupert believes the winners will be those who can deliver a healthcare service more efficiently with technology, for example, home care systems that are able to do remote monitoring with telehealth and sensors and find problems before they become major issues.

Another reason Neupert cited as a reason that Health IT has not made the impact it could have is that in the US in particular, 5% of the people represent 50% of the cost. The reasons for poor health in this 5% are heterogeneous, which also makes it hard for a pure technology solution to address and do what technology does best which is scale. Neupert gave the example of an outpatient care company that produced better outcomes by simply making sure that patients had a ride to their follow-up care, a decidedly low-tech solution. As we think about preventative health solutions, it’s not enough to consider the person in treatment, we also have to consider the environment, for example, if you want to change a person’s diet you also have to change the diet of their family. Technology could help here, for example visual food journals have proven to be effective, but step one is often making sure the family has access to fresh food and knows how to prepare it.

Big data is another lauded savior of healthcare. But if data is not used it is not accurate. Again, there needs to be incentive to use it and that will drive data accuracy and results. Neupert gave the example of New York Presbyterian who have over 100 hospital applications and consequently very good data and contrasted that with the statistic that cause of death is cited incorrectly 25% of the time. Applying analytics to that data would be futile as we’d be trying to prevent the wrong cause of death.

Healthcare IT is grappling with problems that other industries faced years ago, for example, moving to the cloud, bring your own devices, or single-sign on. The key is for both healthcare organizations and technology companies not to see IT or the implementation of an EMR as the savior of improved healthcare, but as a tool that can enhance human-based processes. At Wellpepper we know that a key driver of patient adherence to outpatient treatment plans is the connection and relationship patients feel with their healthcare provider and think that technology is a great tool to enhance and extend that relationship.

We’d like to thank the Health Innovator’s Collaborative, the University of Washington, and the WBBA for this series. It provided inspiration, innovation, and an important dose of reality to big thorny problems. We hope to see this continue.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Good, Fast, and Cheap: Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation

The goal of Triple Aim is to say that, despite what any project manager will tell you, you can have all three.

Good, Fast, Cheap

Source: http://ollmann.cc/

This provocative statement, set the tone for this third installment in Seattle’s  Health Innovator’s Collaborative, a talk called “Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation: Lessons from Comparative Effectiveness Research” by Larry Kessler, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Services, UW School of Public Health and formerly of the FDA, NIH, and NIMH. Dr. Kessler believes that the new accountable care organizations are mandated to deliver on all three and used the example of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement which was founded in 1991 on this principle and brings together leading hospitals, policy people, and researchers who are finding the best ways to deliver triple aim across many specialties.

Changes in how healthcare systems deliver care will drive innovation; however, innovation for its own sake will not win. Innovation must show evidence, cost savings, and revenue drivers. At the same time, it must satisfy a much wider group of stakeholders than previously including patients, physicians and clinicians, payers and providers. Innovative approaches and technology will take the leap past simply showing evidence of clinical outcomes to delivering value. This is a dramatically different approach from how typical NIH or FDA studies are done today. Those studies are done with a small slice of the population that is homogeneous, for example, they only have one issue and no co-morbidities. This type of study may prove outcomes with this particular population, but it doesn’t show cost or revenue based value and is no indicator of how something would work in the population at large, where the sickest patients are usually struggling with more than one issue.

Quality needs to be redefined as the best service AND the best health outcomes AND the best cost outcomes. Dr. Kessler went on to show some clear examples where solutions needed to go to the next level to be adopted and show results.

The first example provided a model that showed over a 5 year period, gastric bypass surgery proved cost effective. However, insurance plans do not include this surgery and require copious paperwork to justify it. This may make sense though, as the determinates of whether surgery is actually cost effective include a number of additional factors like the population and especially whether they will be part of your problem in 5 years. This is where the new accountable care organizations that are charged with population health will have an easier time with the cost benefit analysis as they be responsible for these patients in 5 years.

Another similar example is the new drug Solvaldi for the treatment of Hepititis C. It’s recently been in the news for its staggering price tag: $84,000 for a 12-week course. However, the drug has proved to be extremely effective, and University of Washington health economist Sean Sullivan points out “the drug is far cheaper than the alternative, which is a liver transplant and a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.” Again, though, whether this is a bargain or not depends on how long the payer thinks they will be responsible for the patient.

Successful business outcomes based on cost savings were shown in the example of two diagnostic tests for whether breast cancer would reoccur. The FDA-approved test MammaPrint could predict the recurrence of breast cancer. The non-FDA approved test Oncotype DX could predict the recurrence of breast cancer AND whether chemotherapy would work for the patient. This test, while not FDA-approved became far more popular as it showed very clear cost savings and quality of life for patients who did not undertake unnecessary chemotherapy.

Another study, Back Pain Outcomes Using Longitudinal Data-Extension of Research (BOLDER) was able to consider the patient experience as part of treatment. This study looked at 5,239 patients over 65 with new primary care visits for back pain across 3 integrated systems: Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, Henry Ford Health System, Harvard Vanguard/Harvard Pilgrim. The study goal was to determine the impact of early imaging as an intervention. The results are not yet published, but a couple of observations were already apparent. First, patients sent for MRIs, delay getting physical therapy and if the MRI shows they need physical therapy rather than surgery they have delayed their recovery by the time they waited for the MRI. In this case, the intervention of imaging if it was not needed produced less positive results for patients.

This study used the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and it was also noted that many of the standardized testing tools do not account for what the patient actually considers a good outcome, like whether they can sleep soundly or have sex. Again, this shows that studies need to go a step further into the real world application of the patient’s situation.

These examples showed that it’s not enough to show that an intervention or new technology worked in a study, they also need to work in the real world. For payers that means lowering costs, for providers that means lowering costs or generating revenue while improving outcomes, and for patients that means delivering outcomes that are important to them, not just clinically validated.

The final lecture in this series will be June 3rd with Peter Neupert of Health Innovation Partners. See you there!
“IT can make a big difference in health:  Why hasn’t it?”

Health Innovators Collaborative
4:30 PM, W.H. Foege Building, UW Campus
Seminar: Foege Auditorium (S060)
Reception: Foege North 1st Floor Lobby

 

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Transforming Healthcare Through IT in Washington State

It seems every week there’s another health IT event in Seattle these days and we’re pretty excited about that. The grassroots efforts to build a health community really seem to be starting to take hold.  This week we had the pleasure of attending and presenting about Wellpepper at a Technology Alliance and WBBA event called “Transforming Healthcare Through IT: Investment Opportunities in an Emerging Sector”  held at K&L Gates beautiful offices. The WBBA officially launched their new Innovative Health initiative at the event: they are adding a third focus area to their current biomedical and biotechnology pillars and taking up the mantle of healthcare IT. Given that the lines are blurring between medical devices and mobile devices and software in particular, and that the WBBA are experts in healthcare regulations, this is a welcome move.

The view from K&L Gates Seattle, copyright K&L Gates

The view from K&L Gates Seattle, it was that beautiful this week. Source: K&L Gates

The event was kicked off by Rob Arnold of VantagePoint Investments, who outlined why health IT is so hot right now with a review of a number of trends including patient-centered care and the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act. However, he pointed out that Seattle really didn’t register as a center of healthcare IT investment. San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and even Atlanta and Nashville were far ahead. And yet, as we’ve heard many times we have some of the best healthcare systems in the country and some of the best software developers in the world. What we don’t have is investment, but this event, by bringing together investors, startups, and providers was aiming to change this.

Next up was a panel focused on the landscape of and future of IT moderated by John Koster, MD and former CEO of Providence Health & Services, with panelists Todd Cozzens from Sequoia Capital, Mark Gargett, VP of Digital Integration, Providence Health & Services, and Ralph Sabin from Fortis Advisors. The current state of health IT is not great: 80% of health records are running on a 45-year old technology called MUMPS (ie Epic), and 65% of providers continue to look for cost savings instead of at the $1T opportunity to fundamentally change how we do healthcare.  The current systems were characterized as a “big calcified hairball.”

EMRs need to transform and unlock the data in them to change this system, to be able to be prescriptive rather than reactive, for example, imagine identifying asthma patients and telling them about environmental changes that might impact their health.

All the panelists agreed that the transformation needs to come from within the healthcare system, and cited Microsoft, Google, and GE’s entrance and exit from personal and electronic health records as examples of why technology alone without a keen understanding of the process and system will not effect change.

On the other hand, there are lots of opportunities to fix small problems, for example, patient workflow or outpatient care. However, these incremental changes are harder to predict: it’s easier to see the large scale changes necessary than to fully understand the steps on the road to get there. This may be why the venture money shies away.

The panel also agreed that healthcare is becoming a retail model with patients as consumers driven by both high-deductibles and also expectations from conveniences in other industries. Providence recognized that consumers are increasingly in control of their health decisions and “want to be delighted.” Todd Cozzens from Sequoia predicted the winners would be those who could deliver on a retail experience, and close to or possibly even in a patient’s home.

Similar to discussion we’ve heard at other conferences about the future of healthcare, there was a belief that the fundamental skillset of individual healthcare providers needed to change: in the past remembering a number of facts and applying them in a particular situation was important. With technological advances like IBM’s Watson, computers can do a much better job of diagnosis and the role of the doctor changes to a social role of translating diagnosis into an effective care plan. Or as we’ve heard it characterized: “putting the care back in caregiving.”

Next up Mary Haggard and Joe Piper from Point B Managing Consultants and Capital, showed their “Health IT Landscape Matrix” which was an attempt to characterize Washington’s health IT companies according to the big buckets of Triple Aim categorized as “Creating Efficiency,” “Unlocking the Data,” and “Improving the Delivery of Care.” At the same time they attempted to categorize by the buyer (consumer, employer, provider, or payer), which wasn’t quite as easy and probably reflects the changing landscape of healthcare. What was amazing about the exercise was to see the diversity and number of players in Washington State. This is a great start to hopefully what will become a definitive reference source for the local industry.

Next up were the startup pitches from Corengi, Owl Outcomes, Health123, MedaNext, Spiral Genetics, 2Morrow, CadenceMD, TransformativeMed, and Wellpepper, which ranged from patient engagement to unlocking data genomics to unlocking data in the EMR (not sure which is harder ;)). We’ve been at events with most of these companies before and it was great to hear how they have gained traction and how their businesses and stories are evolving. As a presenting startup, we were happy to be in such great company both with our fellow audience and with attendees.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare, M-health, Seattle

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