Carolinas exec shares connected health data from small trials, new headache tracking app

By Jonah Comstock

Carolinas HealthCare System Vice President of Information and Analytics Services Pamela Landis introduced the MyCarolinas tracker program at HIMSS 2016, just about a year ago. At the Digital and Personal Connected Health event at HIMSS today, Landis revisited the ongoing program and shared data and results from some small pilots at the hospital. 

MyCarolinas Tracker is an app that lets patients track their health and collect data at home from consumer trackers and upload it directly to the hospital in near-realtime. For a lot of at-risk groups, teams of care managers monitor the data and reach out to patients when they see a problem.

"I’m collecting all this information about myself on my phone, which sits here," Landis said. "And my physician is collecting all this lab data and clinical data that sits over here on a portal. We needed to connect those. So we ship that data from your phone into your MyCarolinas portal, so you as the patient can get a full and complete picture of your total health."

Landis shared data from four small studies for diabetes, heart failure, cardiac rehab, and whipple surgery recovery. Most of the studies were on small groups of 8 to 11 patients, but the diabetes study looked at a group of 39. In that study, patients were enrolled and were given no devices -- they could either enter their blood sugar manually or bring their own connected glucometer. Just from three months of monitoring, 81 percent of the group reduced A1C and the average reduction was 17 percent.

The cardiac rehab trial -- which used a connected blood pressure cuff and scale -- found that most patients lost weight, their blood pressure and heart rate stayed in recommended ranges, and only one of the 10 patients was readmitted, and that was for a non-cardiac reason. The whipple surgery study, using Fitbit Flex devices, found that the more steps a patient got, the fewer complications they experienced. They also found that the Fitbit was motivating to patients.

In general, one finding was that it was harder than expected to get patients to buy into the various pilots.

"Some patients really embraced it," Landis said. "They were like ‘Bring it on, I want it’. And that’s one of the threads through all of our pilots— some people are ready for it and some people say ‘I just want you to fix me when I’m here’."

In addition to MyCarolinas Tracker, Landis shared data from a new remote monitoring app the health system recently launched called MigraineRx. The objective of the app is to use the phone's passive sensors to collect as much data as possible about when patients' headaches occur.

"A patient opens up the app on their phone when they feel that migraine coming on," Landis explained. "The biometrics start recording -- the time of day, how they feel, what the weather was like, and they select the medication they took and they have that all packaged up so when they go talk to their neurologist they have an accurate rendering of what happened during that last incident."

The data right now is on very small groups of patients. But the reception has been positive, and a few anecdotes showed the potential monitoring has to catch things that happen between office visits, which the patient might not even be aware of.

"One woman was having irregular sleep patterns," Landis said. "She says ‘Oh, I sleep great, I sleep great’. Well, not according to the data that was coming to us. Her activity tracking said she was getting up many times during the night. She had no idea that she was not getting good rest, that she was really, really snoring. We got her in for testing and it turned out that she had sleep apnea. We averted something that might have been catastrophic for that family. And we were able to do that because we had a glimpse of their life in between visits."