With the launch of a new asthma app, Nemours looks to bring all its digital tools onto a single platform by 2019

Nemours Children's Hospital-Orlando
After launching its asthma app, Nemours is preparing to combine all its digital offerings onto a single platform. (Nemours Children's Health System)

Facing new demands from its patient population while eyeing the transition to value-based care, Nemours Children’s Health System has set in motion a plan to pull all of its digital health offerings onto a single patient-facing platform over the next year, adding new specialty tools designed to augment in-person care in the process.

That rollout began on Thursday when Nemours unveiled a new mobile app for asthma patients that integrates EHR data, a homegrown telehealth platform, data from an informational website run by the health system, and a suite of connected home monitoring tools including breath-flow monitors and stethoscopes.

Gina Altieri

The new tool, which will be available on the Apple Store in January, is part of a broader effort by the health system to put more digital tools in the hands of patients, particularly those with chronic conditions.

Next year, Nemours plans to roll out two more specialty apps for diabetes and cardiac care and then launch a primary care app by early 2019. Ultimately, the system plans to pull all of those tools, plus its telehealth system and patient portal, onto a single platform that will house a growing suite of apps for specialty care. 

“Everyone is starting to dabble in each of these things, but no one is really tying it all together to make it an integrated seamless experience for the family or the patient,” Gina Altieri, senior vice president and chief of strategy integration at Nemours, told FierceHealthcare.

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To do that, Nemours has been forced to confront the interoperability challenges facing every healthcare provider in the country. The asthma app, built in-house, pulls data from several disparate systems into a single streamlined patient-facing interface.

“Sometimes that meant literally sending technologists off to get training on a new programming language, so they could get into the guts of the EMR and pull out what the EMR wasn’t providing us via API,” says PJ Gorenc, operating officer at the Nemours Center for Health Delivery Innovation.

PJ Gorenc

The work that’s gone into the asthma app will pave the way for the next two apps that also focus on common chronic conditions among the system's pediatric population. Starting with the Nemours app for asthma, the health system is focused on providing patients and families with a new set of tools to help control those illnesses and reduce readmissions and emergency care, even if that doesn't immediately contribute to the bottom line.

“We’re certainly not looking for a financial return on investment—we’ll probably never achieve that,” Altieri says. “What we’re looking for is measuring clinical outcomes to prove that this is actually a better way to enhance the care they receive in person.”

Several other forces have shaped this effort. Like many organizations, Altieri says Nemours is “starting to tiptoe” toward value-based care payment models, and she predicts the digital investments the system makes now will pay off in the future as the system takes on more risk-based models.

But the transition is also driven by the growing need to satisfy a new generation of parents who see their mobile device as a valuable tool.

“Many of these people are digital natives and have grown up with technology and have expectations that are driven by other industries,” Gorenc says. “In healthcare, we need to do a better job of stepping up and providing that experience that they are used to in other areas.”