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T2 Telehealth aka ATA 2017 aka ATA 23: Part 2, How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?

This was my second trip to Orange County Convention Center this year, so it was hard not to compare and contrast the annual American Telemedicine conference to HIMSS, the biggest health IT conference. As well, it was my third time at the ATA conference, back after skipping in 2016, and the gap made it easier to reflect on previous years as well.

The ATA annual is almost 10 times smaller than HIMSS, which makes it a lot less exhausting and easier to focus. There’s not a feeling that for every second you’re talking to someone you’re missing out on talking to someone else equally as interesting and valuable. (There is no shortage of interesting people, just a more manageable group.) The size also makes it a bit easier to talk to people as they’re not rushing off to walk a few miles across the convention center to the next session.

The first year I attended, 2014, the tradeshow floor was full of integrated hardware and software solutions, and Rubbermaid was even a vendor selling telemedicine carts. It was almost as though the iPad hadn’t been invented.  It was the year that Mercy Virtual launched their services as a provider of telestroke and telemonitoring for other health systems. A provider as a vendor caused a bit of a stir on the tradeshow floor.

By the next year, the integrated hardware and software vendors were dwindling, but talks were largely still given by academics and were focused on pilot projects that while showed success, talks often ended with a plea for thoughts on how to scale the program.

ATA evolved out of an academic conference and that’s still quite prevalent in the presenters who are often from academic medical centers, and reporting on studies rather than implementation. Data was important in all sessions, but measurement of value was inconsistent. In addition to academic medical centers, most leaders in telehealth seemed to be faith-based not-for-profits, like Mercy and Dignity, and as well as rural organizations where the value was clear.

That said, a welcome addition to this year’s content was two new tracks on Transformation and Value. I spoke in the Value track at ATA, along with Reflexion Health and Hartford Healthcare about the value of telerehab in total joint replacement, and we were able to share data points from real patient implementations, in addition to clinical studies. (If you’re interested, in the Wellpepper segment, get in touch.)

Although, harkening back to the day 1 keynote, the definition of value depended on the business model of the telemedicine platform being implemented. There’s no question that telestroke and neurology programs, and telebehavior programs deliver value especially in rural areas without direct access. At Wellpepper, we’ve seen definite results in post-acute care, both in recovery speed and readmissions.

In other sessions the value was not as clear and no one was able to fully refute the study that when offered the choice, patients used telemedicine in addition to in-person visits, thus driving up costs. In fact, the director of telemedicine for a prominent healthcare organization confirmed that patients were using televisits for surgical prep when they could have just read the instructions given to them. (Or interacted with a digital care plan like Wellpepper.)

As with every technology conference the voice of the patient was absent, with the exception of head of Mercy Virtual Randall Moore, MD who started all his presentations by introducing us to patient Naomi who was able to live out her life at home, attend bingo, and enjoy herself due to the benefits of the wrap-around telemedicine program that Mercy put In place. Oh, and it cost a lot less than the path of hospital admissions she’d been on previously. Sounds like triple aim, and what we all need to aspire to.

So, based on the keynotes, the sessions, and the show floor, I’d characterize this year’s conference as a world in flux, like what’s going on elsewhere. There was a sense of relief that the ACA had not been repealed. HIMSS took place before the proposed repeal and replace plan died, and there was a lot more fear and uncertainty. Vendors and providers alike are looking to strengthen the value chain. Unlike HIMSS, there was a lot less hype. Machine learning and AI were barely mentioned except in keynotes possibly because telemedicine is still largely a world of real-time visits, and extracting meaning from video is a lot harder than from records. We see promise, people want to do the right thing, but it’s not clear which direction will help us ride out the storm.

 

Still trying to figure out what this has to do with Telemedicine. Look better on realtime visits?

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Legislation, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Technology, M-health, Prehabilitation, Rehabilitation Business, Telemedicine

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T2 Telehealth aka ATA 2017 aka ATA 23: Part 1, The Eye of the Hurricane

While there is a focus on transformation, value, and outcomes going on, if the keynotes are any indication it may be a rough road ahead for telemedicine.

“It’s the 23rd year for the American Telemedicine Association conference, why are we still talking about how to get paid?”, admonished Pamela Peele, PhD economist and Chief Analytics Officer of UPMC during the opening keynote of the annual conference of the American Telemedicine Association.

Pamela Peele at ATA2017

Pamela Peele at ATA2017

“Especially since, as this audience knows, telemedicine is the best thing since sliced bread?

Why indeed? Well, it’s complicated. The problem is that each person in the value chain, the payer, the physician, the healthcare organization, the patient, and the patient’s closest adult daughter (aka primary caregiver), only see the value of one slice of that loaf of bread, and we collectively as purveyors of telemedicine have to sell the entire loaf. There’s no clear solution to this problem. However, with unsustainable costs of healthcare, and increasing consumerization we have got to figure it out. The taxpayer is bearing the brunt of the costs right now, and Peele characterized the shift of baby boomers to skilled nursing facilities as a hurricane we are unprepared for. One way out is to keep people at home, and for that we need Medicare to fund a cross-state multi-facility study to determine efficacy, value, and best practices. Fragmentation of trials is keeping us from wide scale adoption.

The Adaptation Curve

The Adaptation Curve

“We have got to figure it out” was also the theme of best-selling author and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s keynote promoting his new book “Thank-You For Being Late.” Friedman claimed to be more right than the rightest Republican and suggested abolishing corporate taxes and at the same time more left than the leftist Bernie Sander’s supporter suggesting we need an adaptable safety net. His major thesis is that we are undergoing 3 climate changes right now: globalization, climate, and technological. To survive and thrive in this new world, we need to adapt and evolve, and take our cues from Mother Nature, not from some sort of top-down regulation. Like Peele on the previous day, Friedman also sees a hurricane coming and suggests that the only way to survive is to find the eye of the storm not by building a wall.

Adapting and evolving will come in handy with the harder times for healthcare investment ahead predicted by the venture investing panel in the day 3 keynote. Tom Rodgers of McKesson Ventures, and Rob Coppedge of the newly formed Echo Health Ventures pulled no punches, as they tossed of tweet worthy statements like “Don’t tell me you’re the SnapChat of healthcare” and “it seems like there are only 3 business models for telemedicine.” The later was Coppedge’s comment on walking the tradeshow floor. (The models are direct to consumer, platform, and as a combined technology and service.) Rodgers had no love for direct to consumer models or anything that targeted millennials who he deemed low and inconsistent users of services. Platform vendors were advised to surround themselves with services: video was seen as a commodity.

So where does that leave us? Value, value, value. The challenge is that the value is different depending on the intervention, the patient, the payer, and the provider. Preventing readmissions, aging at home, decreasing travel costs, all provide benefits to one or more of the key stake holders. Can we figure out how to reimburse based on slices of value? How do we get together to realize that value? And how do we do it before the hurricane hits?

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare transformation, Telemedicine

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Telehealth 2.0: Our picks for Orlando

File-2016-3478-2017_ATATradeshow_1920_25I am really looking forward to heading to Orlando for the American Telemedicine Conference, aka Telehealth 2.0. Seattle has been under a rain cloud this entire year, and I want to see the sun. I’m also looking forward to sharing our findings in using asynchronous mobile telehealth for remote rehabilitation with patients recovering from total joint replacement. I’ll be speaking with our colleagues from Hartford Health, Reflexion, and Miami Children’s Hospital on Sunday during the first breakout sessions. Hope to see you there!

In addition to the topics about legislation and regulations, it’s great to see these sessions on value, quality, and new treatment models. Here are some of Wellpepper’s picks for the conference.

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Now with all this great content, networking and a talk to prepare, when will I see the sun?

Posted in: Adherence, Behavior Change, Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Legislation, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, patient engagement, Telemedicine

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Did HIMSS deliver on its Charter? Transforming Health through IT

HIMSS Annual Conference
February 29-March 4, 2016

Another HIMSS has come and gone for me. I will not brag about how many times I have attended this conference, but I will brag about it being the first time with Wellpepper. Overall, the level of activity exceeded our expectations and validated the need for innovative patient engagement technologies like ours.

Being with a new company gave me a whole new perspective on the HIMSS annual event. Reflecting back, years of HIMSS events can blur together and it can seem like the same old same old. This year was different: the healthcare ecosystem is going through a profound change and the providers and payers know this. Health systems are beginning to understand that the model is moving away from a passive engagement with the patient, to a model where the patient is taking more initiative to include their own wants/needs to participate in their care delivery.

With that, comes a whole new set of demands from the patient consumer and that I believe is where HIMSS is trying to make the transformation.  For the second year, HIMSS has partnered with HX360’s Innovation Pavilion to showcase pioneering health IT solutions that are addressing these challenges. As a start-up company, we can often get lost in the maze of vendors at a large conference such as HIMSS (estimates suggest more than 1200 exhibitors). The HX360 Innovation Pavilion provides an opportunity for entrepreneurial health IT companies to shine… and that we did.

Along with this venue, HX360 sponsors an Executive Program that runs concurrent with HIMSS. These educational sessions attract leaders such as Chief Innovation Officers, Nursing Informatics Officers and Vice Presidents of Digital Health who are looking for innovative solutions from companies like Wellpepper. Because of this venue and opportunity, we were able to have meaningful conversations with IT and executives that are looking to get a head of the curve and provide innovative solutions for their patients and systems.

Upon my travels home, I felt optimistic this shift to value-based healthcare will really drive innovation and allow companies like Wellpepper to part of the conversation and solution. The future appears to be bright and full of opportunity.  It is an exciting time for both the healthcare community and the consumer.

So, did HIMSS hit their mark? In part, yes. HIMSS is making great strides to keep up with the changing landscape of healthcare. No longer is it just about the EMR, servers, networks and storage in the IT back room. It’s about patient facing solutions that provide ownership and accountability for the patient while securing that brand loyalty for the provider.

The transformation of healthcare is now. Healthcare does not take to change lightly. But, companies like Wellpepper will continue to pave the way to innovation and the industry will take notice.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, patient engagement, Telemedicine

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Digital Health and the Influence on Healthcare: Wearables, Telehealth, & Treatment

Things are looking up in the world of digital health at least this was the view from “Digital Health and the Influence on Healthcare: Wearables, Telehealth, & Treatment.” The WBBA held their last event of the season with a panel on digital health, hosted by Russell Benaroya, CEO of Everymove, and featuring Dr. John Scott, Director of Telemedicine at UW Medicine, Davide Vigano CEO and co-founder of Sensoria, Mike Blume, independent healthcare consultant, and myself. I’d characterize the overall event as being optimistic and realistic, both from the panel and the attendees.

Digital health event

It was a dark and stormy night

No one said that the road to digital health was easy or fast, but the consensus that things like moving to the cloud, and the acceptance and adoption of patient-driven digital care is reaching a turning point.

Both Sensoria and Wellpepper’s business models are made possible by the cloud. For Sensoria this was the ability to process millions of datapoints coming from their wearable technology. For Wellpepper, this is our ability to rapidly implement solutions working with department heads facing a particular challenge in patient engagement and outcome tracking and improvement. Dr. Scott remarked on the dramatic drop in the cost of telemedicine solutions over the years he’s been an advocate and solutions due to both Moore’s Law and cloud computing over his tenure running telemedicine at UW.

Sensoria's Quantified Socks

Sensoria’s Quantified Socks

As well, although Dr. Scott highlighted how telemedicine was limited by arcane reimbursement models that did not allow for patients to receive telemedicine consults in their homes, he and other panelists discussed that they were not waiting for billing codes to do the right things in using technology to deliver better care. As usual, the Affordable Care Act was seen as a big driver as patient-centered and digital care.

Possibly because there were two ex-Microsoftees on the panel (Davide and me) a cloud-based platform approach was touted as the best way to both collect, analyze, and sort the data that came in directly from patients. In the case of Sensoria and Davide, this was to look for trends and patterns coming from sensor-integrated clothing, and in the case of Wellpepper it was to collect patient outcomes in the context of care and compare these across patients, procedures, and healthcare organizations.

This view led to a discussion about the proliferation of data, and everyone agreed that digital health has the ability to overwhelm health systems with data that they are currently not prepared for. EMRs are not set up to include sensor or patient-reported data, and as Dr. Scott pointed out, physicians are not looking for every data point on a patient, only the anomalies, like glucose out of range.

One audience member asked about whether healthcare organizations had an overall data strategy, and whether digital health data should be collected as part of that. It’s an interesting idea to consider but it seems like it’s still a long way off in healthcare. Does your organization or CIO have an overall data strategy? It seems that quality measures and the need for patient reported outcomes are introducing new requirements for data, but this is at the departmental or initiative level. Grappling with questions like this will be important as connected devices, digital, health, and patient reported outcomes enter the mainstream.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Outcomes, Telemedicine

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Session Picks for 2015 American Telemedicine Meeting

We can’t promise to get to all these sessions and blog about them for you, but here are a few that caught our attention at the American Telemedicine Association Annual meeting coming up in Los Angeles next week.

Monday May 4th

Establishing a Program to Reduce Readmissions and Costs in the Ambulatory Setting: A California Success Story

Telehealth is proven to decrease costs without sacrificing quality for many scenarios.

Learning Opportunities from Large Scale Telemedicine Initiatives

An interesting mix of private and public sector initiatives across disciplines including pediatrics and psychiatry.

Improving Commitment, Quality, and Outcomes

We love outcomes, and this session also feature’s Seattle’s own Carena.

It’s a Small World After All: Approaches in Neonatal ICU Care

Cute title, serious results with examples across pediatric care.

A New Model for Remote Diabetes Care Best Practices

One of the biggest issues facing our healthcare system so new models welcome!

Expanding Telehealth to Improve Hospital-wide Readmission Rates

Readmissions and care transitions, so important.

Mainstream Medicine Moves into Direct to Consumer Health

Mercy, a Catholic Health System from St. Louis, is a quiet leader in telehealth. Find out why they dedicated an entire new building to for their telehealth practice. Plus a case study from Cleveland Clinic. Whew, that’s a lot of great content.

Tuesday May 5th

Utilizing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Telemonitoring to Reduce Hospital Admissions and Readmissions for Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure is a patient group where readmissions can be prevented with better communications, which telemedicine and remote monitoring can provide.

A Large Provider Focuses on Consumers: The Experience at Kaiser Permanente

With large deductibles, patients are increasingly making decisions as consumers.

Implementing Successful Clinical Specialty Programs: Burns, Infectious Diseases, and Genetics

Telemedicine helps scale specialists, especially from centers of excellence and to rural areas.

Using Community Health Models to Enhance Patient Performance and Outcomes

Another great benefit of telemedicine is to empower community health workers through remote support from specialists.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Health Regulations, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Telemedicine

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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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