Tag Archive for: healthcare apps

There’s an App for That…Or There Should Be: Utilizing Technology for Better Health Outcomes

Health literacy has always been a passion project of mine ever since I was diagnosed with cancer. I stand by the notion that plain language and clear communication leads to better health outcomes. However, communicating with our care team isn’t always easy. How many of us have gone into an appointment only to leave the office 10 minutes later, wondering what happened and what our copay went to? Were all of our issues and questions addressed? 

This is where we have to come in as advocates for our own health, and below are a few ways to do this: 

  • Try and focus on one ailment per appointment 
  • Write down a list of questions you want addressed prior to the appointment 
  • Ask questions during the appointment – you are the expert of your body and health 
  • If something doesn’t make sense, ask for the information to be explained in another way. Patients are found to be more compliant if they know: 
    • How to take their medications properly 
    • Why specific blood tests and imaging are ordered (i.e. if they’re necessary) 

How do we keep track of all of this information, though? There are patient portals that keep track of our appointments and records, but those can often be hard to navigate, and they lack the capability of being able to enter our own information (i.e. about how we’re feeling). Additionally, different health systems have different portals, leading not only to lost passwords, but a missed opportunity for integrated healthcare. This is essentially senseless for cancer patients who have to keep track of multiple appointments and medications, all while trying to keep afloat in a system that wasn’t built for patients and their caregivers. 

However, there’s a role technology can play here. I’ve heard of patients carrying around large binders of their records from appointment to appointment, but if we’re being honest, I don’t believe a physician or other member of a patient’s care team is going to take the time to go through it. Instead, utilizing the power of the device that we’re constantly carrying around and looking at may be the way to go (in addition to a smaller folder or journal for those that are comfortable with paper). 

If we think about it, there’s an app for everything, and having an app to keep track of our cancer journey should be no different. What should this app be able to do? Here are a few things that I think are especially important: 

  • Keep track of: 
    • Medications (dosage, picture of what it looks like, how to take it and what to do if you accidentally miss a dose or take more than what is prescribed, ability to refill) 
    • Blood work (results and what they mean [featuring a scale of what’s low vs. normal vs. high], what to ask your doctor about in terms of next steps) 
    • Imaging (results and what they mean, what to ask your doctor in terms of next steps) 
  • Ability to connect with all members of your care team (primary care doctor, oncologist, nurse navigator even if they work in different health systems) 
  • Ability to connect with caregivers and share information with them 
  • A diary to describe daily thoughts, symptoms, and side effects, flagging specific keywords that can alert a member of your care team 
  • A calendar with appointments (date/time, office location, directions) 
  • Tips to assist with mental health (i.e. offering local or national support groups [both virtual and in-person], counseling that accepts insurance and/or is offered on a sliding scale) 
  • Exercise routines featuring different forms of exercise (yoga, pilates, HIIT, weightlifting, playing a sport, walking and running, etc.) based on you’re feeling side effect- and energy-wise 
  • Information about nutrition through the different phases of a cancer journey (pre-treatment vs. in-treatment vs. post-treatment) that includes recipes 
  • Most importantly, all of this information should be in plain language that’s easy to understand in whatever language the patient is most comfortable reading 

Having an app that features all of these capabilities, I believe, would push the needle forward in patient care, not only creating better health outcomes, but a more satisfied patient. What would you add to the list? 

November 2021 Digital Health Roundup

Fifty years of research have led to a lot of innovations. Technological advances mean that doctors are better able to monitor our health, and health and fitness apps can motivate us toward a healthier lifestyle, but studies show the benefits aren’t always equitable. In addition, more technology means more compromised data. Experts are warning governments to tighten up regulations, while others are asking for expanded and permanent access to telehealth.

Expanded Telehealth Coverage

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend the Covid-19 public health emergency through the end of 2022, if not longer, reports healthcareitnews.com. The public health emergency has allowed for the expanded coverage of telehealth, but it is uncertain how and when the expanded coverage will end. The ATA is hoping HHS will give patients ample notification about the future of telehealth. While there has been support for the expanded telehealth rules to become permanent, Congress has not acted on that. The ATA is concerned that patients, who have become dependent on telehealth during the pandemic, will abruptly lose access to care if the public health emergency is not expanded, giving Congress time to put permanent policies in place. Read more about the ATA’s request to HHS here.

Digital Health Data

More access to care is good, but leading independent experts are warning countries to protect digital health data in order to prevent medical inequities and human rights abuses, reports ft.com. The group of experts produced a report that lists the benefits of telehealth, but also provided guidance for governments to use that would protect healthcare consumers from misuse of health data. Recommendations include increased regulations to protect children and providing equitable access through digital infrastructure. Learn more here.

The threat of healthcare data breaches is real. In 2021 more than 40 million patient records were compromised, reports healthcareitnews.com. The breaches can paralyze networks and lead to disruption of care. Find a list of 2021’s ten largest data breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here.

Health Apps

Technology-based health apps are more beneficial to people with higher socio-economic status, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that middle and higher socio-economic health and exercise app users achieved a higher level of physical activity while users with lower socio-economic status received no clear benefits from using the apps. Researchers suggest that the findings indicate that further use and development should take into account the needs of users with lower socio-economic status to prevent inequalities among users. Find out more here.

Remote Monitoring

Doctors at Kentucky Cardiology in Lexington, Kentucky found that patients weren’t always keeping accurate records of their blood pressure at home, so they looked to technology for a solution, reports healthcareitnews.com. They contracted with a remote patient monitoring technology that automatically recorded the patient’s blood pressure results. Staff members were able to monitor the readings and contact the patient if they saw a reading that was unusual. Staff members were also notified if a patient was not taking their blood pressure. In those cases, staff members were able to contact the patient and review the how to do the readings or troubleshoot any issues. The program has been a big success and grown quickly and reached 86 percent patient engagement. Learn more about the remote monitoring program here.

National Cancer Act

Fifty years ago, the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 enabled fifty years of groundbreaking research and discoveries for the treatment of cancer. Many were technological innovations being highlighted by cancer.gov in celebration of the anniversary. The technologies include:

  • CRISPR, a gene-editing tool
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Telehealth
  • Cryo-EM, short for cryo-electron microscopy, a process that generates high-resolution images of how molecules behave
  • Infinium Assay, a process that analyzes genetic variations used in cancer research as well as a variety of other applications
  • Robotic Surgery

Learn more about each of these technological innovations and the National Cancer Act of 1971 here. Also, look for more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 in this month’s upcoming Notable News.

August 2021 Digital Health Roundup

There is an app for everything, and healthcare is no exception. Digital health apps are big business, but maybe they could be better utilized. The way we use telehealth is evolving rapidly, and it varies from state to state, but could that change at some point? Getting information about your health is important, but in many cases when you’re seeking information, you end up finding that there is no shortage of misinformation.

Healthcare Misinformation

Be careful where you get your information about cancer treatments, reports medicalxpress.com. A new study found that misinformation about health conditions is becoming more and more common, especially on social media sites. The study looked at 200 of the most popular cancer treatment articles found on social media, and discovered that one third of them include misinformation, and that those articles get more attention and engagement than the articles with evidence-based information. The misinformation is not only misleading, but it can also potentially be harmful to patients and negatively affect patient outcomes. One way to avoid misinformation is to use trusted sites like Patient Empowerment Network’s powerfulpatients.org, and it’s always important to talk to your trusted care provider about any treatment information you find online. Find out more about the study here.

Access to Telehealth

As special Covid-19 legislation expires in many states, access to telehealth is less certain, reports healthcaredive.com. During the Covid-19 pandemic many states used waivers to allow medical professionals to provide telehealth care to patients in other states. The waivers have already expired in some states like Florida, Alaska, New York, and Minnesota, but other states like Arizona are passing legislation to make the telehealth waivers permanent. Advocates for making permanent changes to telehealth access say it would help with staffing shortages, providing access to healthcare in rural areas, and maintaining doctor/patient relationships. It can also be beneficial to those who need to see specialty providers not available in their home states. However, because medical licensing is regulated at the state level, it’s difficult for doctors who want to practice across state lines. As the lawmakers continue to try to make telemedicine available to those who need it, some are saying a federal medical licensing system might be in order, or a system of reciprocity between states where out-of-state licenses would be automatically recognized. It will be interesting to see what permanent telehealth regulations result. Find out more here.

While many say telehealth increases access to care, there are others who say it could do just the opposite. Check out forbes.com to read an opinion on how to make sure telehealth doesn’t end up being a contributor to health inequities here.

Health Apps

There is no shortage of digital health apps, reports mobihealthnews.com. A recent report discovered that of the 350,000 digital health apps available 47 percent are geared toward monitoring specific diseases or health conditions, such as diabetes. The report also found that the effectiveness of health apps is being studied more often and that 90,000 new health apps were introduced in 2020. Not only are there a lot of digital health apps, but they are a big money industry as well. So far 2021 is showing record-breaking numbers in digital health investment. Learn more here.

While health apps are growing in number and popularity, they aren’t being fully utilized, reports medicalxpress.com. Typically, data and information that users collect and record about their health doesn’t connect to the patient’s medical chart. Healthcare providers then don’t have the opportunity to monitor the information or provide feedback about the data. However, a new study showed that patients with high blood pressure saw health benefits when they monitored their condition using an app that was accessible to their healthcare providers The study found that the typical patient had a reduction in systolic blood pressure. Researchers hope that eventually patients and providers can use mobile apps to better treat chronic health conditions and provide better health outcomes. Read more here.

Digital Health Roundup: June 2021

Digital healthcare is creating a better experience for patients and employees; one hospital has the data to prove it. Seniors, in particular, benefit from telehealth, and a bipartisan group of senators is trying to ensure that telehealth access is here to stay, but data privacy is a concern that experts say needs to be addressed.

Mobile healthcare apps may have some serious privacy problems, reports mobihealthnews.com. A study of more than 20,000 medical, health and fitness apps showed that the apps collect personal user information, but that it is not always secure, and the privacy practices are not always made clear. The study showed that 88 percent of mobile health apps could collect and share user data that includes contact information and user location. While the study also revealed that only 4 percent of the apps actually share user data, experts remain concerned about the privacy and data collection risks. Get more information here.

When it comes to virtual visits with their primary care doctors, a new study shows that telehealth is an effective form of care for senior citizens, says healthcareitnews.com. The study analyzed more than 300,000 telehealth visits which showed that virtual healthcare visits were successful in treating and solving the needs of patients in most cases. Researchers found that seniors were most likely to use telehealth visits for upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin conditions. The study is encouraging for the future of care for seniors, as the effectiveness of telehealth visits is important for patients with mobility and other challenges that may prevent them from being seen by a provider in person. Learn more here.

Lawmakers are aware of the benefits of telehealth to seniors and those in rural areas, and they are trying to protect them. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a new bill this month that would continue access to telehealth for elderly and rural patients, reports pymnts.com. The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act aims to permanently expand patient access to telehealth. The bill would allow healthcare providers to offer virtual care, including consultations through telephone calls, to Medicare patients anywhere in the country. While the demand for telehealth is no longer as high as it was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand is still higher than it was pre-pandemic especially in rural areas where access to care is often limited. Learn more here.

Digital healthcare technology is not only beneficial to patients in their own homes, but also during in-person visits. A New York hospital is using digital technology to improve patient satisfaction ratings, reports healthtechmagazine.net. Since 2018, Lenox Hill Hospital has been using a digital rounding platform to gather patient information and coordinate patient visits with nurses, the food and nutrition team, and other staff members. Collecting patient information in the digital rounding app from all staff members who visit the patient helps the teams anticipate and address patient needs. Hospital leadership says the system makes patient interaction proactive rather than reactive. The rounding platform was built with the input of nurses and has led to improvement in better experiences for patients and employees. Learn more about the Lenox Hill digital rounding program here.