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Will The Fitbit Care Program Break New Ground?

Posted on September 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Wearables vendor Fitbit has launched a connected health program designed to help payers, employers and health systems prevent disease, improve wellness and manage diseases. The program is based on the technology Fitbit acquired when it acquired Twine Health.

As you’ll see, the program overview makes it sound as the Fitbit program is the greatest thing since sliced bread for health coaching and care management, I’m not so convinced, but judge for yourself.

Fitbit Care includes a mix of standard wearable features and coaching. Perhaps the most predictable option is built on standard Fitbit functions, which allow users to gather activity, sleep and heart rate data. However, unlike with individual use, users have the option to let the program harvest their health data and share it with care teams, which permits them to make personalized care recommendations.

Another option Fitbit Care offers is health coaching, in which the program offers participants personalized care plans and walks them through health challenges. Coaches communicate with them via in-communications, phone calls, and in-person meetings, targeting concerns like weight management, tobacco cessation, and management of chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and depression. It also supports care for complex conditions such as COPD or congestive heart failure.

In addition, the program uses social tools such as private social groups and guided workouts. The idea here is to help participants make behavioral changes that support their health goals.

All this is supported by the new Fitbit Plus app, which improves patients’ communication capabilities and beefs up the device’s measurement capabilities. The Fitbit app allows users to integrate advanced health metrics such as blood glucose, blood pressure or medication adherence alongside data from Fitbit and other connected health devices.

The first customer to sign up for the program, Fitbit Care, is Humana, which will offer it as a coaching option to its employer group. This puts Fitbit Care at the fingertips of more than 5 million Humana members.

I have no doubt that employers and health systems would join Humana experimenting with wearables-enhanced programs like the one Fitbit is pitching. At least, in theory, the array of services sounds good.

On the other hand, to me, it’s notable that the description of Fitbit Care is light on the details when it comes to leveraging the patient-generated health data it captures. Yes, it’s definitely possible to get something out of continuous health data collection, but at least from the initial program description, the wearables maker isn’t doing anything terribly new.

Oh well. I guess Fitbit doesn’t have to do anything radical to offer something valuable to payers, employers and health plans. They continue to search for behavioral interventions that actually have an impact on disease management and wellness, but to my knowledge, they haven’t found any magic bullet. And while some of this sounds interesting, I see nothing to suggest that the Fitbit Care program can offer dramatic results either.

 

The Role of Technology in Chronic Disease Management – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on August 21, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 8/24 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Colton Ortolf (@ColtonOrtolf) who blogs at tech prescribed on the topic of “The Role of Technology in Chronic Disease Management“.

Chronic disease is an incredibly broad term, but it can be simply defined as “a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment.” In all, 86% of $2 trillion in US healthcare expenditures each year are devoted to those with chronic illnesses.

If you aren’t sufficiently shaken by that statistic, here are a few more on the devastating impact of these diseases:

  • 60% of people have at least 1 chronic disease, while 12% have 5 or more
  • Chronic disease accounts for $0.96 of every Medicare dollar and $0.83 of every Medicaid dollar
  • Productivity losses from chronic illness will cost the US approximately $1T annually
  • Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths every year

Also, here are the top 10 chronic diseases by percentage of the US population they impact: Hypertension (58%), High Cholesterol (47%), Arthritis (31%), Coronary Artery Disease (29%), Diabetes (27%), Chronic Kidney Disease (18%), Heart Failure (14%), Depression (14%), Alzheimer’s / Dementia (11%), COPD (11%).

Now that we can all agree on the scale of this epidemic, we can begin to decipher how we should go about addressing it. Being a chronic disease sufferer is – at best – challenging and – at worst – completely debilitating. Drawers and cabinets are filled with complicated medications, doctor appointments cause missed work days, and daily pain can become unbearable. Along with the added mental and physical stress, we would assume that consumers would try to avoid these illnesses at all costs. However, much of the rise in chronic disease rates can be attributed to preventable patient behaviors: smoking, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity. Couple these behaviors with extended life expectancy, and a chronic disease is nearly guaranteed for your future.

Given the nature of these risk factors, it is clear that reducing costs and prevalence is reliant on our ability to predict and alter consumer behavior; and, many entities have undertaken efforts to do so in recent years. Population Health initiatives, often spearheaded by public institutions, seek to remove environmental risk factors and educate the public on how to make healthier choices. Providers and Health Plans launch coordinated behavior modification campaigns targeted at populations at risk of developing chronic illnesses. Care Management teams directed by trained specialists deploy a variety of tactics to help the sickest patients stay on track with their care plans. The people driving these efforts are nothing short of heroic, but we are also on the precipice of an opportunity to scale and optimize their efforts using cutting edge technology.

And that brings us to the focus of today’s chat. Scaled data management and analytics, proliferation of wearables and IoT sensors, and the dawn of artificial intelligence are among the many technologies that we expect to drastically improve the management of chronic diseases. We are already seeing impact through companies like Omada Health, which utilizes digital tracking technology and a wifi scale coupled with personalized coaching to combat diabetes. Google is even developing an AI that can recommend fitness and meal plans. Controlling the growth of these diseases is undoubtedly the biggest challenge and the most salient opportunity we have in the US healthcare system. As we progress towards a new age of fee for value, let’s explore the following questions to determine our greatest opportunities at the intersection of tech and chronic disease management.

Sources:

Here are the various topics and questions we’ll be discussing for this week’s #HITsm chat.

Topics for this week’s #HITsm Chat:
T1: How can technology help drive healthier behaviors in patients? #HITsm

T2: Given increasing focus on mental health conditions, how can technology play a role in supporting behavioral health patients? #HITsm

T3: What tools should we develop for caregivers to help optimize their efforts in managing chronic diseases? #HITsm

T4: What needs to change in industry structure (payment models, policy, health system focus, etc.) to better enable our fight against chronic diseases? #HITsm

T5: Do you think providers, payers, tech companies, or others are best positioned to have the biggest impact on chronic disease costs? #HITsm

Bonus: What are some examples of companies that are having a measurable impact in this space? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
8/31 – Will Big Media Spoil HealthIT for the Little Guy?
Hosted by ShereeseM, MS/MBA (@ShereesePubHlth)

9/7 – TBD
Hosted by Jessica Maxine Selby (@JessMSelby)

9/14 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

9/21 – Human Centered Design in Healthcare #PatientsMatter
Hosted by Jen Horonjeff (@jhoronjeff) from @Savvy_Coop

9/28 – How Does Interoperability Affect Technology Adoption in Healthcare?
Hosted by Niko Skievaski @niko_ski from @redox

10/5 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

Patient Portals and Chronic Disease Management – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on January 23, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 1/26 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Monica Stout (@MI_turnaround) from Medicasoft on the topic of “Patient Portals and Chronic Disease Management.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a statistic stating that roughly 117 million people have one or more chronic health conditions. One in four people has two more chronic conditions. That is so many people! It’s 2018 and there are tons of innovative technologies out there. Why aren’t we doing a better job of managing our health conditions?

In a recent blog, I posted that chronic disease management represents one of the best opportunities for a personal health record or patient portal to link wellness and healthcare together to affect positive health outcomes. What changes in healthcare technology need to be made to more effectively treat and manage patients with chronic conditions?

Join us to talk about patient portals and chronic disease management during this week’s #HITsm chat.

Topics for This Week’s #HITsm Chat:
T1: Would you (or do you) use technology to help manage your health and wellness? Why or why not? #HITsm

T2: Effectively managing chronic disease can involve changing habits and forming good habits. What are some ways IT can help patients form and maintain good habits? #HITsm

T3: What’s a feature you wish patient portals had that they currently do not? #HITsm

T4: If patient portals collected data so providers could participate in MACRA/MIPS more seamlessly, would you be more apt to encourage their use in your organization? #HITsm

T5: Does your employer provide you a PHR as an employee benefit? If so, does it motivate you to be an engaged patient? #HITsm

Bonus: What are the benefits of having a complete personal health record that you can access anywhere? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
2/2 – From Makerspaces to Virtual Spaces: How 3D Changes Everything…
Hosted by Chuck Webster, MD (@wareFLO)

2/9 – The Role of HealthIT in Driving Payer Provider Employer Collaboration
Hosted by Heather Lavoie (@HSLavoie) from @Geneia

2/16 – TBD

2/23 – #HIMSS18
Hosted by #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassadors

3/2 – Machine Learning and AI in Healthcare
Hosted by Corinne Stroum (@healthcora)

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

Patient Portals and Chronic Disease Management

Posted on January 16, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

Half of all U.S. adults, roughly 117 million people, have one or more chronic health conditions. 1 in 4 people have two or more chronic conditions. As a nation, we need some help addressing the chronic disease epidemic. Many patient portals today give patients access to pieces of their health information – lab results, for example – and some will flag upcoming appointments or refill a prescription, but where are the tools and the data in a portal to actually help patients manage chronic conditions, thereby improving their overall health and wellness? Sadly, many patient portals provide a very narrow view, with few opportunities to link data to actions to results in a way that closes the loop between patients and caregivers. Without a complete view of a patient’s health measures, wellness goals, and plans of action – and the tools to manage them – it is very difficult to connect health and wellness to address the whole patient.

Chronic disease management represents one of the best opportunities for a personal health record to link both wellness and healthcare together to affect positive health outcomes. What does it take to improve and maintain wellness? First, you need patient engagement. You need motivated patients who want to do a good job of actively tracking their conditions and working toward wellness goals. How do you convince a chronically ill patient to do this? Start by offering a tool that’s easy for them to track their data – complete with a workflow and user interface that makes it a breeze to enter and distill information at a glance and when they are on the go. Use technology similar to what patients use in their daily lives on their smart phones and laptops. Give patients tools to understand their health and take action based on how they are doing and what their health goals are! Provide a portal that allows the integration of popular wearable devices and lets the patient decide who should have access (Spouses? Caregivers?) to help them enter and manage their information.

Effectively managing chronic disease requires changing poor habits and forming good habits. Sometimes people need a gentle nudge or a push outside of the exam room. A platform that can send out reminders, gamify the experience, and even call a patient can go a long way in helping steer chronic disease patients in a more positive wellness direction. It’s not all about reminders, either. Texts and calls informing patients when they are doing a good job managing their daily wellness habits can also help.

Beyond helping patients, there’s an added benefit to coupling wellness capabilities with a PHR for providers – it has the ability to not only affect chronic disease factors, but to collect the data providers need to participate in the Quality Payment Program; the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). To quickly review, the Quality Payment Program allows clinicians to be rewarded financially for providing high-quality and high value care through Advanced Alternate Payment Models (APMs) or MIPS that are based on various measures. These measures can be integrated into the PHR, allowing physicians to track their patient populations, run reports, submit information to the Quality Payment Program, and receive merit payments.

What are your thoughts? Would you use a PHR to manage a chronic condition you are experiencing? Would you encourage your loved ones to use one? As a provider, how do you feel about a PHR making it easier for you to track MIPS/MACRA measures?

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.