Defining Engagement In An Age Of Patient Monitoring And Data Collection
BY GRACE MOEN FOR BAYER
What is healthcare without patients? For decades physicians have been a one-stop shop for diagnosis and treatment, a trusted source. And yet it’s only been in recent years that the entire healthcare industry has woken up to the notion that patients can and should have an active role in their healthcare and the decision making process. Patients may not have a medical education or clinical experience, but they do have a strong asset going for them: intimate knowledge of their bodies and access to information only they can provide. The rise of wearable technologies over the past decade has only increased patients ability to quantify their experiences, health and otherwise. Diet, exercise, daily habits, stress levels, family life, physical environment all contribute to an overall picture of health. Yet too often, clinicians only see a slice of their patients health picture - the picture that is presented during office visits. The increased importance of tracking lifestyle data has clinicians and technologists asking themselves, How do we unlock more information in order to make better decisions and deliver better care?
The field is called Patient Engagement. And while the industry has mutually agreed upon it’s critical importance, the question remains as to what it looks like. Broadly speaking, Patient Engagement has three tenets: (1) patient knowledge about their own experiences, (2) patient willingness to participate in the decision-making process, and most importantly (3) their ability to do so. Here in lies the linchpin. Patient knowledge and willingness is no good if there isn’t a system that exists to give shape and provide structure to the influx of patient-generated information.
It should be noted that not everyone wants to engage in the decision making process of their own healthcare, but according to the NHS, 40% of people do. Wherever patients fall on the spectrum of engagement, it is imperative to close the gap and provide a comprehensive engagement strategy. What better way than by using the most powerful tool in our box: technology. These days, smart phones and cellular connectivity are ubiquitous and are the foundation for which so much of this world operates effectively. The digital movement within healthcare is no exception and perhaps the greatest opportunity lies in Remote Monitoring. For chronic care patients such as those with Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension, and others, the need for continuous, remote monitoring can be the critical difference between a life at home or a life in the hospital. These patient populations need access to more engagement and remote monitoring, and they need it now. Cellular connectivity common in a tech-literate demographic means that some engagement solutions can collect data passively, through the use of smartphones, while others can collect data actively, by asking a patient to opt-in through the use of wearables or biosensors. While chronic disease patients typically already have an expectation of around-the clock-monitoring, the question then becomes How can we do it better, faster, cheaper?
Xbird, an alum of Bayer’s G4A Accelerator, is an example of one such company. With their connected ecosystem of sensors, wearables, and devices they use Artificial Intelligence to identify patterns both in biomarkers and in habits that illuminate potential critical health events. This kind of continuous data stream made possible through Remote Monitoring ripples through the care delivery continuum leading to life-saving early interventions and cost-reducing clinical efficiencies. Crucially, Remote Monitoring allows patients to remain in their homes, with their families, and engaging in their work and hobbies in an environment in which they can live more like people and less like patients.
In a shared endeavor to define how Patient Engagement looks, one model might be to build a system in which care plans are co-designed between patient and provider, one that is custom, empowering, and maximizes data to increase the quality of information within every stage of decision-making. This requires a unified commitment, scalability through technology, and a sense of urgency.