HIMSS 2017: Telehealth, remote monitoring and home care help providers meet patients where they are

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on consumer engagement and retail healthcare. The first part looked at the business opportunities in retail healthcare

ORLANDO, Fla.—As providers take on greater financial risk with reimbursement tied to outcomes, clinicians are putting greater emphasis on care in between visits. Perhaps that’s why there’s been a wave of investments in telehealth platforms and other connected and remote healthcare technologies.

“The delivery of care over technology is very much here,” Roy Schoenberg, M.D., CEO of telehealth company American Well, said at a session on retail healthcare and patient engagement during the HX360 event at this year’s meeting of the Health Information Management and Systems Society in Orlando, Florida.

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“When you care for a cancer patient, because you give them chemotherapy at the medical center and then they’re discharged and go home, they live most of their life with the condition at home—not at the hospital. And most of the challenges come in because you have to go with a fine balance of how frequently you can follow up with them. Because it’s so difficult for them to leave their home and come and see their oncologist,” Schoenberg said.

“Today it’s standard practice to do the chemotherapy and discharge the patient and see them in a month. Not because we don’t want to see them sooner, but because it’s hard. Is this going to become the new malpractice? Because there’s no justification whatsoever for patients who are in that level of acute need for care to not see them for a month if you can actually check up on them for a couple of minutes three times a week through” telehealth.

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The panel, moderated by FierceHealthcare, also included Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of market innovation at AAPR and Alex Hurd, senior director of product development, growth and payer innovation for the health and wellness division of retail giant Walmart.

Part of meeting patients where they are, Holtzman said, is giving them access to familiar technologies and apps they can easily learn. “The question is does the technology adapt to the people? Or do the people have to adapt to the technology?”

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“If we’re going to bring in innovation that will change the way care is delivered, it’s because it will be intuitive and fun and exciting and easy for everybody to use it,” Schoenberg added.

Consumers want to engage in different ways, Hurd said. Educating them about the options that are available—at every touchpoint, including retail settings—makes sense.

“For some folks, a telehealth visit might be the way to go. Other folks might want to have an autonomous vehicle take them to see their pharmacists or their physician because they want to have that in-person interaction. Both of those are fine,” Hurd said, “but how do we offer the choices and help the customer identify the options … that most closely meets their needs?”

“These innovations, several of them, are just staring us in the face,” Holtzman added. “When we can put people on the bridge of the Enterprise and you can speak into the air and stuff happens, that’s when it gets really exciting. And that’s just over the horizon.”