Patient engagement: The unifying link in telehealth

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Some of the latest mHealth innovations are coming from unlikely sources. Take Philips, for example, which has turned to salesforce.com to help improve patient engagement in its new telehealth platform.

"People in healthcare have not yet figured out how to bridge the gap between technology and care," says Manu Varma, vice president of marketing and strategy for Philips' Hospital to Home clinical programs. "It's something that everybody is trying to learn now, and (this partnership) aims to create an operating model inside provider networks … that we haven't seen before."

In developing a cloud-based platform to push healthcare delivery outside the hospital walls, Philips executives said they needed to work on the communication link between providers and patients. Providers and caregivers, they said, need to establish a better relationship with patients, collaborating in a healthcare delivery process that focuses on medical device and data interoperability.

Enter salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based developer of customer relationship management programs. Philips executives expect to use the Salesforce1 Platform to create a secure, scalable platform that pulls in electronic medical records, data from home-based devices and monitoring equipment, even personal devices and technologies like Apple's HealthKit. Providers and their patients can then use this platform to develop a personalized care plan that fits the needs of both parties.

"We have entered a new transformative era for healthcare, and technology is enabling the industry to connect to, care for and engage with patients and each other in a profound new way,” Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com, said in a press release. “(W)e are creating an open health platform and ecosystem to benefit everyone that cares about one of the most important issues of our time."

Varma said Philips' Hospital to Home programs "take that technical leap" by creating an open architecture that collects data from disparate sources and allows for analysis. "I think healthcare has been buried in just trying to digitize itself," he said. "This goes further."

The process, he said, compels both providers and patients to work together, analyze the data they have, and design an ongoing health program that works best for them.

"The platform is just a platform. What you do with it matters the most," he said.

The platform will be home to, among other things, two new clinical applications being launched this year – Philips eCareCoordinator and Philips eCareCompanion. Both are designed to allow clinicians to monitor patients with chronic conditions in their homes. They'll be supported by the Philips Hospital to Home platform, which has already seen success in Banner iCare, a pioneer accountable care organization based in Arizona.

Hargobind Khurana, medical director of Banner Telehealth, said Philips and Banner have worked for years to develop sustainable telehealth programs that would enable the hospital system to send patients home earlier and ensure that care programs are extended to the home. Banner iCare, in place for about a year, focuses on identifying patients "who are in need of extra help" after they leave the hospital, such as those with chronic conditions.

"I see the program as an integrated part of taking care of a larger population," Khurana said. "We're creating a healthcare team, identifying patient needs when they're at home, and providing proactive care for them."

"Sometimes they don't even realize they need extra help," he added. "They don't think they're chronic patients, or they feel they're fine after they leave the hospital."

That's where patient engagement comes into play. By creating a healthcare team (that includes social workers and health coaches) and working with the patients to show them what's happened, what's happening and what needs to be done, clinicians can involve the patient in their own healthcare, thus improving compliance and, over time, clinical outcomes.

Philips and salesforce.com officials envision a platform that covers the continuum of care, from post-discharge to chronic care management to health and wellness. Frans van Houten, Philips' CEO, sees this as the next phase of accountable care.

"Healthcare data exists in many different forms and in many different systems today," he said in a press release. "(W)e have a tremendous opportunity to reshape and optimize the way healthcare is delivered and provide better access to data across the continuum of care."