3 ways USC is using virtual care to capture a broader range of patients

The University of Southern California’s medical school is taking on several efforts to digitize medical care while ensuring new technology is useful and available to more patients.

Using mobile apps, sensors and virtual care, the USC’s Center for Body Computing and the Center for Health System Innovation are targeting new technology that makes care more accessible for patients. Those efforts include input from digital design experts who oversee patient engagement factors like computer literacy, trust and access to devices, executives at the USC Keck School of Medicine wrote in NEJM Catalyst.

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  • Mobile apps: The Center for Body Computing is focusing on digital solutions that provide real-time diagnostics along with access to a medical professional. An app developed by the Center focuses on drug adherence for hypertension, but also builds in dietary information, activity tracking and text messaging between patients and providers.
  • Virtual care: Cloud computing and digital communication have streamlined virtual services, making access to care easier for patients that face financial and physical challenges. USC is exploring options for patients recovering from heart failure that need constant attention.
    The system is also experimenting with virtual caregivers that use voice recognition software and artificial intelligence to provide on-demand information to patients. The authors noted this approach has been particularly beneficial for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that feel more comfortable talking with a virtual provider.
  • Behavioral health: USC is evaluating digital tools to reach out to patients with depression and social isolation—conditions the authors say are just as hazardous as smoking and obesity. Digital technology may be a way to get those patients more involved in their overall health.

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Despite the promise of virtual tools, the healthcare industry has struggled with user engagement, particularly when it comes to mobile apps. Consumers—as well as physicians—are often skeptical of health information technology.