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Survey: 87 Percent of Consumers Have Adopted One Digital Health Tool

September 5, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Digital health adoption continues to increase, with 87 percent of consumers saying they have adopted at least one digital health tool, compared to 80 percent in 2015, according to results from San Francisco-based Rock Health’s third national consumer survey on digital health adoption and sentiments.

Rock Health surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults to shed light on how consumers are engaging with technology-driven healthcare innovation. 2017 was the third year Rock Health deployed this survey, providing a three-year trend data for the first time.

Based on the survey data from 2015 to 2017, there is a clear upward trend of consumers taking control of their healthcare via the use of digital tools like telemedicine, wearables, and online provider reviews, according to Rock Health’s report on the survey data.

But the needle has not moved equally across every subgroup of the population—nor across every type of digital health solution, the report states. “The data tell us that some subgroups prefer traditional healthcare channels; that patient demographics influence readiness to pay out of pocket for expanded services; and that those with chronic conditions (often with the greatest potential to benefit from digital health) are selective in their uptake of digital health,” the report authors—Megan Zweig, Jen Shen and Lou Jug, wrote. “So while digital health solutions promise impactful, even life-altering outcomes for patients, consumers are still transitioning to testing out—and sustainably integrating—these solutions into their lives.”

Looking at adoption rates of various digital health solutions, adoption of online health information grew from 72 percent in 2016 to 79 percent in 2017 and adoption of online provider reviews grew to 58 percent in 2017 from 51 percent in 2016. However, only a quarter of consumers have adopted mobile tracking and the same percentage have adopted wearables.

Rock Health’s report on its third national consumer survey on digital health adoption and sentiments found that chronically ill seniors represent the greatest opportunity to improve health—though they are the least likely to use digital health tools. Digital health adoption is significantly higher among young, high-income adults compared to other consumer segments.

While aging adults have the second highest adoption of digital health technologies, the “worried well” segment—aged 18 to 35 with income greater than $75,000—is more likely to use digital tracking tools and wearables by a margin of more than 20 percentage points.

Not surprisingly, chronically ill seniors have the greatest demand for healthcare services—86 percent visited a doctor at least twice in the past year and 97 percent are managing at least one prescription. Yet they are the least likely to leverage digital health technologies, with extremely low rates of live video telemedicine use, digital health goal tracking, and wearable use.

The survey also found that respondents with a self-reported health condition are more likely to track health goals—though most do not use digital apps to do so. Those experiencing health challenges actively track their health, but digital solutions don’t consistently reach these high-need populations. For instance, respondents taking medication and those with high blood pressure are likelier than not to track a related health goal; but a minority of these groups use a digital solution to do so. Of those respondents tracking their blood pressure, only 11 percent do so with a digital app/journal.

However, respondents who self-identified as obese and who track diet or physical activity buck this trend. This subgroup has adopted digital tracking systems at a somewhat higher rate (29 percent use a digital app to track food/diet and 56 percent use a digital app to track physical exercise), compared to the average for all respondents, according to the report.

The Rock Health survey also found challenges to long-term growth for wearables. Among the 24 percent of respondents (974) that own a wearable device or smart watch, over a quarter (260) reported that they no longer use the wearable. As discontinued use threatens the lasting utility of wearables, innovators must offer sustained value to customers or face the fate of other expendable gadgets, the Rock Health researchers noted.

“Interestingly, the top two reasons for discontinued wearable use are contradictory: nearly 30 percent of users discontinued use after achieving their intended goal, while 20 percent stopped use because the wearable was ineffective in helping them achieve their goal,” the researchers wrote. Companies must figure out how to deliver long-term value to ensure sustainable customer engagement, even if users hit health goals along the way.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents have, at some point in their lifetime, searched for an online review of a healthcare provider, according to the report. This marks an increase from 50 percent in 2015, with the boost largely coming from increases in searches for pharmacies and hospitals. A significant group of respondents (ranging from 27 percent to 40 percent) report taking action based on provider online reviews.

Looking at data sharing and security, respondent willingness to share health data with an entity is correlated with confidence in that entity’s data security, the survey found.

Though most respondents are willing to share health data with their physician, there is a significant drop-off in willingness to share with other stakeholders. Fifty-eight percent of respondents are willing to share with health insurance companies and 52 percent with pharmacies.

Respondents’ willingness to share health data with an entity is nearly perfectly correlated with respondents’ confidence in the data security of that entity, the survey found. Of note, respondent confidence in data security of tech companies declined from 31 percent in 2016 to 24 percent in 2017, and the researchers note that may decline further if press about major data breaches continues.

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Vanderbilt Transplant Center Launches Mobile App for Providers, Patients

January 22, 2019
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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The Vanderbilt Transplant Center is now giving patients and providers instant access to critical transplantation data—such as educational resources and donor information—on their smartphones and mobile devices.

According to the organization’s officials in a recent announcement, the app is designed to be a resource for transplant information at the Nashville-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) for both patients and providers.

“It helps patients find information about transplant programs as well as educational links about transplantation. Patients can customize what organ they are interested in learning more about, meet the transplant team and find provider locations. Living donor information is also available as well as a living donor referral form,” officials stated.

The Vanderbilt Transplant Center, Tennessee’s only full-service transplant center, provides chances for patients to participate in clinical trials and studies, as well as access to other specialists. Its transplant teams have performed more than 9,500 solid organ transplants since 1962, including all the major organs—heart, kidney, lung, liver and pancreas, according to its officials.

For providers, the app aims to offer improved access in the referring process for both adult and pediatric referrals through REDcap referral forms. The app gives referring physicians a secure process to contact the on-call VUMC transplant physicians to enable better communication, while also containing a direct link to call the VUMC Transfer Center for urgent transfers of patients to VUMC facilities. Providers also have access to outcome data, officials noted.

The Vanderbilt Transplant Center has debuted a new free app available for iOS and Android devices, available by searching “VUMC transplant” in the respective app store.

“Development of this app will allow patients unprecedented ability to connect with our system, schedule appointments and interact with our providers,” Seth Karp, M.D., H. William Scott Jr. professor and chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, said in a statement. “We have every expectation this service will increase our ability to reach patients and provide outstanding care.”

Edward Zavala, transplant center administrator, added, “The Vanderbilt Transplant app is a significant addition for our referring providers to access the transplant center. Additionally, the patient education component of the app provides patients ready access to transplant-specific education.”

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Report: At-Risk Medicare Seniors the Next Apple Watch Target?

January 18, 2019
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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Apple is engaging in discussions with multiple private Medicare insurers about subsidizing the cost of the Apple Watch for at-risk people over 65 years old, according to a CNBC report.

This week’s report, from health tech reporter Christina Farr, noted, “The insurers are exploring ways to subsidize the cost of the device for those who can't afford the $279 price tag, which is the starting cost of an older model.”

The latest version of the Apple Watch—the Series 4—was launched in September, and as officials of the tech giant stated at the time, brings “advanced activity and communications features, along with revolutionary health capabilities, including a new accelerometer and gyroscope, which are able to detect hard falls, and an electrical heart rate sensor that can take an electrocardiogram (ECG) using the new ECG app.” This version retails for at least $399.

According to the CNBC report, “Apple has paid a visit to several of the largest insurers in the market, as well as some smaller, venture-backed Medicare Advantage plans. The people declined to be named as the discussions are still private.”

The watch’s electrocardiogram function and fall detection capabilities particularly make it appealing and valuable for seniors; about 19 million seniors, and growing, are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, which are private health plans that receive government payouts for providing services to seniors—about $10,000 per member, on average, Farr’s report noted.

According to Apple, the new Series 4 Apple Watch intermittently analyzes heart rhythms in the background and sends a notification if an irregular heart rhythm such as AFib is detected.  It can also alert the user if the heart rate exceeds or falls below a specified threshold.

And, the Apple Watch’s fall detection function utilizes a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope, which measures up to 32 g-forces, along with custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur, the company has stated.

To this end, data from health technology company HealthMine shows that 21 percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries use a fitness/activity/steps tracker; and 70 percent currently use digital tools, with a blood pressure monitor being used by 50 percent of beneficiaries.

In this realm, Apple is working with other major insurers as well. It was recently announced that UnitedHealthcare Motion, an employer-sponsored wellness program, is telling its participants they can get a free Apple Watch if they meet the insurer’s daily walking goals over a six-month period. For this initiative, program participants can use the Apple Watch to see how they are tracking against the program’s three daily goals—frequency, intensity, and tenacity—helping integrate physical activity and engagement with their health plan.

Industry observers have already begun to offer some reaction to CNBC’s story. In Farr’s report, Bob Sheehy, the CEO of Bright Health, an insurance start-up with a Medicare Advantage plan, and the former CEO of United Healthcare, spoke to the idea of seniors potentially avoiding expensive care visits by leveraging the device. “Avoiding one emergency room visit would more than pay for the device," said Sheehy.

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PerfectServe Acquisition of Telmediq Consolidates Secure Communication Platforms

January 17, 2019
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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Combined companies have more than 500,000 clinical users across 250 hospitals, 27,000 physician practices and post-acute care organizations

PerfectServe, a provider of cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration solutions, has acquired competitor Telmediq, a secure communications platform provider for health settings.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based PerfectServe said it plans to support both solutions going forward, taking advantage of each platform’s cloud-based, service-oriented architecture to integrate complementary features.

Telmediq is deployed across 300 healthcare organizations and 80,000 users. It offers a call center solution, nurse mobility, advanced alert and alarm management capabilities, and mass notification functionality. Combined, PerfectServe and Telmediq have more than 500,000 clinical users across 250 hospital sites and 27,000 physician practices and post-acute care organizations. 

PerfectServe said the acquisition is an important step in its effort to build a care team collaboration platform that unifies the entire care team across the continuum, from inpatient, to outpatient, to patients at home. “Our vision is to build a platform that is separate from, transcends, and is fully integrated with the EHR and all other point-of-care technologies,” said Terry Edwards, president and CEO of PerfectServe, in a prepared statement. “The goal is to make it easy for clinicians to overcome persistent care coordination challenges that have existed in the industry for years.”

The Telmediq acquisition follows an investment last year in PerfectServe by private equity firm K1 Investment Management.

 

 

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