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LIVE FROM HIMSS16: How Leading Health Systems are Engaging Patients to Improve Care

February 29, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Leaders at Carolinas HealthCare System and Geisinger Health System discussed their strategies for using patient engagement in care coordination and population health management
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At the HIMSS16 conference in Las Vegas Feb. 29, leaders at pioneering health systems shared how they are using patient engagement technologies to provide healthcare that is personal, mobile, convenient and transactional with the goal of targeting patients with chronic conditions and reducing care gaps.

Leaders at Carolinas HealthCare System and Geisinger Health System discussed their strategies for using patient engagement in care coordination and population health management at as part of the Patient Engagement Symposium in the HIMSS16 pre-conference education at the Sands Expo Convention Center.

Pamela Landis, vice president, Information Services at Carolinas HealthCare System, a large integrated delivery network based in Charlotte, North Carolina, outlined the early success of the health system’s MyCarolinas Tracker app, a platform that integrates patient-generated health data with clinical data in electronic health records (EHRs).

Launched last fall, the MyCarolinas Tracker collects data from approximately 70 mobile devices and provides one place for patients to view all that data while also integrating that data into the MyCarolinas patient portal, and then into the health system’s Care Management System.

“So, it connects it to MyCarolinas patient portal, which includes the clinical data we collect on patients, so the lab values and test results, and it puts that data into a clinical context using data visualization and it creates a dashboard for the patients so they can see whether they are on their way to their goal. We let the patients ship in their patient-generated health data, so they can get a picture of their health with both their data and the clinical data, all in one place,” Landis says.

Currently, there are 2,000 patients using the MyCarolinas Tracker app with 300,000 recorded health measurements. “Patients are clearly starting to use it,” Landis said.

Leaders at Carolinas HealthCare System saw an opportunity to use the MyCarolinas Tracker app to improve the health of patients with chronic conditions.

“There are 65,000 people in the Carolinas with diabetes and one-third of our patients are clinically obese. We know obesity leads to 60 diseases and conditions, so when we look at our patients and look at what our populations look like, we understood that we got to find a better way to manage their care, and give them tools to improve own health status,” she said.

 “We integrated this data into the care management program and shipping that data over to the care managers and they are seeing patient generated data every single day. And we began enrolling patients February 8th for that program,” Landis said.

One challenge with patient engagement programs is that patients historically haven’t been motivated to manage their health, she said. “Why is that people manage their Facebook more than they manage anything related to their health?

Landis referenced consumer interviews that the health system conducted to test a new health app. What we kept hearing from consumers is that healthcare hard—make healthcare easy, mobile, transactional and about me. We haven’t given it the value yet and that’s what we are trying to do here,” she said.

According to Landis, the health system also seeing success with its MyCarolinas patient portal which currently has 550,000 users and includes a mobile app. The MyCarolinas patient portal pulls together data from electronic medical records (EMRs), GetWell, MyCarolinas Tracker and Open Notes. “We find that the patients who are logging into MyCarolinas each month, 66 percent are reading their Open Notes and we haven’t done any marketing on it. People are finding the information,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot to encourage transparency and that is us pushing info to [the patients], and I want to focus more on them giving us data and us putting that data into a clinical context and providing care,” she said, referring to the development of the MyCarolinas Tracker app.

The health system has devoted significant resources to develop innovative, leading edge mobile initiatives, such as The Amazings kids’ mobile game designed to help kids recognize their asthma triggers. The game is a fast-paced, runner-style game intended for children with asthma ages 7 to 12, Landis says. The game was developed by Carolinas HealthCare System and Levine Children’s Hospital.

“Asthma is the number one reason why people are admitted to our children’s hospital and this helps them to recognize the triggers. We didn’t build the game ourselves, as we didn’t want it to look like a health IT app. So we engaged people who do consumer mobile development in the youth market and we said, we’ll give you the clinical content and expertise, and you make it fun and engaging. So, it’s am more interesting way to teach a child about what the triggers are,” she said.

Chanin Wendling, director of Geisinger in Motion at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, discussed the health system’s strategy to use connected health technology to enable superior patient care.

“We spend time thinking about what works. While the technology is sexy and exciting, you have to think again about the patient and what’s useful for them,” Wendling said.

“What works is when the patient has information the clinical team does not already know and when the patient’s actions make a difference,” she said. “Also, when the clinical team can incorporate the information and actions from the patient and when the information or actions are meaningful to the patient.”

The patient portal is the foundational element of patient engagement, Wendling says, “I don’t see it going away and the question is, how can you use it more?”