While telemedicine, digital health, and other innovative patient engagement technologies were around prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient and provider use may have been minimal. Now, these technologies are here-to-stay as they've proven to be effective in managing health.
In fact, patient engagement technology became and remains a necessity in the aftermath of the pandemic as health care organizations consider how to best keep patients well remotely, including care coordination and chronic disease management. More than half of health system chief information officers say patient engagement technology is currently their top priority after tools to support the pandemic response.1
Digital patient engagement tools are becoming increasing popular as consumers look for user-friendly, customer first, digital solutions to manage their health much like they do in the rest of their lives. Digital platforms are highly customizable, and the large array of patient engagement technologies available appeals to various consumer-level preferences. They can improve the patient experience with continuous delivery of care, open communication channels with providers, and access to resources.
As patients will expect to be engaged digitally throughout their care journey going forward, let’s look at some of the latest digital patient engagement tools and technology trends in health care.
Remote monitoring devices and wearables
Remote monitoring capabilities gained new traction during the pandemic, but they’ve proven to benefit patients beyond quarantine. Remote monitoring technology provides a platform for patients to engage with their providers when they need them and become more involved in their care.
Remote monitoring devices
Remote monitoring devices in health care relay data back to the electronic health record (EHR) and care team. They provide a point of communication through digital patient engagement tools—like mobile apps and SMS text messaging—bridging access between patients and their providers beyond the office setting. Remote devices help build stronger provider–patient communication and relationships and offer new tools for chronic disease management.
As remote monitoring devices are integrated into EHR workflows, expect changes to reimbursement models.2 The integration of remote monitoring technology with standard of care practices will help providers deliver better care as reimbursement changes shift the burden of chronic care management to the physician.2
Wearable technology is ingrained in society, with fitness trackers and smartwatches seen as mainstream. Use of wearable technology has more than tripled in the last four years, and more than 80% of consumers say they’re willing to use it.3
While there are some wrinkles to iron out surrounding the wearable market—namely, privacy and regulatory concerns—there’s much potential for this technology in the health care space.4 Wearables may monitor health metrics (e.g., blood pressure and heart rate), and some even have predictive capabilities.4 They provide a valuable reference point for physicians to engage patients about specific physiological and biochemical parameters and what they mean.
Wearables encourage patients to engage in and take responsibility for their health. The rise of more self-management options for patients should be met with interactive patient education technology to make sure that patients understand the data. Remote monitoring devices should ultimately help patients simplify rather than complicate their health management.
Personalized health and predictive medicine
Personalized treatment plans using predictive medicine are already improving care delivery—especially in managing chronic disease. This strategy uses branching logic or artificial intelligence (AI) to cater care to each patient’s unique needs.2 Health care organizations should go one step further to expand EHR integration to support personalized patient education including communications and targeted messaging.
AI patient engagement should incorporate pre-care and post-care strategies to reduce cancellations and complications while improving the overall patient experience. It facilitates asynchronous communication, allowing both patients and providers to communicate when it’s most convenient for them. Krames delivers mobile-first patient engagement via text messages—featuring links to Krames patient education—that nudge patients to adhere to their treatment plans and prescriptions between visits. Ultimately, approaches to personalized health care that utilize digital engagement strategies improve the quality of care and patient outcomes, and even allow physicians to care for more patients in the same amount of time.2
AI and machine learning in health care
The use of AI and machine learning can be integrated within EHR systems to automate routine tasks, like detecting abnormal health parameters or patterns and alerting providers to potential health problems. Through wearables and remote monitoring, AI can even facilitate these alerts at a distance.
Integrating AI into an EHR workflow means initially investing more time, money, and resources into your EHR system; however, this technology more than makes up for the initial investment by supporting a strategy of prevention, early detection, and early intervention. For example, AI can identify high-risk patients within the EHR and automatically signal the patient’s care team with suggested resources, treatment options, and a communication plan.
This makes for more efficient care and can even cut down on staff’s administrative workload: the technology gathers all data from a patient’s interactions over time, AI interprets and analyzes the data, and then provides strategies to make healthy lifestyle changes. Moreover, AI can be used to offer personalized patient education solutions on the consequences of unmanaged conditions, for example, stress and depression as it relates to obesity.2
Optimized online touchpoints
Branding is essential to every industry but indispensable in health care as patient choice drives it more than ever before. Patients are consumers first, with 60% of them choosing a provider based on a strong online presence.5 Ensure your brand is at the front and center of every care touchpoint—including deciding where to go for care and which doctor to see—by leveraging available technologies that reduce friction in the scheduling process.
Health systems are often challenged to connect their provider data management with their website and patient acquisition efforts in a way that demonstrates conversion and delivers measurable ROI. New Care Finder Direct accelerates patient acquisition by combining the audience reach of WebMD with the high-quality data management, search, and online scheduling of symplr®, all delivered from one single hub. WebMD users click from Care Finder Direct to your health system website and can book appointments with qualified physicians via the EHR.
Your organization builds patient brand recognition and trust with a seamless, personalized experience, and is perceived as their knowledgeable health care provider. As their trusted resource, patients will consistently engage with you in their search for reliable information and care, boosting patient retention.
Post-pandemic telehealth and changes in coverage
Between November 2019 and November 2020, telehealth claims increased nearly 3,000%.6 While many insurers expanded their coverage to include or even waive telehealth visits during the pandemic, new payment models are now including telehealth services. This shift is a clear indicator that telehealth is here for the foreseeable future.
Increasing options for care, and maintaining a patient-centric focus, means that health care organizations need to cater their services to modern patients and keep pace with telehealth and remote monitoring trends. Over the last year, patient satisfaction with telehealth visits was double that of traditional in-person visits (82% patient satisfaction associated with telehealth vs. 44% with in-person visits).7
As the pandemic has propelled us into the future of technology-based health care, payment models and regulatory requirements will also change. Security for sharing and transferring growing numbers of visits and amounts of sensitive personal health data will need to follow strict compliance approaches including certification of integrated technology frameworks (ISO/IEC 27001, HITRUST, NIST, SOC 2). Working with EHR and health care education companies can make your leap into the future smooth and amenable.
The technological future of health care
There’s no doubt that technology benefits patient engagement. And despite the paradox of providing opportunities for remote care and social distancing, integrated technology like AI and digital patient education platforms provide the ability to deeply personalize care—even as the patient is in the hospital.
Today, hospital smart rooms allow for patients to control and engage their experience from their mobile devices and allow providers to deliver personalized health education via in-room televisions or tablets. WebMD Provider Services' recent acquisition of The Wellness Network further enhances digital and online solutions—including Krames patient education video library—to engage patients and reinforce provider guidance with more videos delivered via more channels.
The biggest takeaway from these trends is that personalization plus the increased accessibility provided by technology improves patient engagement, increases accountability, and promotes better health outcomes.
1 Heath S. 52% of CIOs say patient engagement technology top priority in 2021. Patient Engagement HIT Web site. https://patientengagementhit.com/news/52-of-cios-say-patient-engagement-technology-top-priority-in-2021. May 20, 2021. Accessed July 15, 2021.
2 Janas J. Can technology improve how we treat (or prevent) chronic conditions? HIT Consultant Web site. https://hitconsultant.net/2021/06/01/technology-improve-treat-prevent-chronic-conditions/#.YOXgROhKiUl. Published June 1, 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
3 Marr B. The 9 biggest technology trends that will transform medicine and healthcare in 2020. Forbes. November 1, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/11/01/the-9-biggest-technology-trends-that-will-transform-medicine-and-healthcare-in-2020/?sh=79c8a59b72cd. Accessed July 15, 2021.
4 Bonderud D. Wearable tech in healthcare: possibilities and pitfalls. Health Tech Online. https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2021/04/wearable-tech-healthcare-possibilities-and-pitfalls-perfcon. Published April 19, 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
5 Roesler P. New research shows why doctors need a strong online presence. Inc. May 21, 2018. https://www.inc.com/peter-roesler/new-research-shows-why-doctors-need-a-strong-online-presence.html. Accessed August 9, 2021.
6 Kaplan D. Telehealth is poised for a post-COVID-19 future. Oncology Live Web site. https://www.onclive.com/view/telehealth-is-poised-for-a-post-covid-19-future. Published April 14, 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
7 Heath S. COVID spurred patient engagement with remote patient monitoring. Patient Engagement HIT Web site. https://patientengagementhit.com/news/covid-spurred-patient-engagement-with-remote-patient-monitoring. Published June 16, 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.