What would you give up for a virtual doctor visit? Uniting Patient Engagement, Population Health and Electronic Health Records

GirishWith the fast adoption of smart phones, tablets and wearable devices, the way people communicate, travel, eat and entertain have all been simplified. Why not streamline the way we experience healthcare as well? A study released in May 2014 from MDLive discovered that 82% of young adults 18-34 would prefer consulting with their doctor via a mobile device than show up for an appointment. Twenty seven percent of patients confirmed they’d be willing to give up shopping for a month, skip their next vacation, even refrain from showers for a week—if it meant they would be able to access their doctor via a smart phone! These results, along with the multiple surveys and studies conducted in the past year, confirm that a new way to conduct healthcare services is in high demand.

The solution to changing up the healthcare system sits at the center of three key advancements: patient engagement, population health and electronic health records (EHRs). At eClinicalWorks, we consider these components of healthcare to be like a three-legged stool where two cannot stand without the other. We recognized this need as an opportunity within the healthcare IT space and created healow in order to provide our customers and their patients with a platform to schedule doctors’ appointments and get immediate access to medical records via an online interface or mobile app. healow empowers doctors and patients by packaging personal health records (PHRs), healthcare tools and appointment scheduling together, making the data readily accessible to patients and their doctors from the palm of their hand.

In addition to scheduling appointments with physicians in-person, healow also allows the option of virtual visits, frequently referred to as telemedicine. Choosing this option allows you to connect through video with your doctor by clicking on a button at the time of your appointment. You speak with your doctor within the comfort of your own home about non-emergency concerns such as strep throat, rashes and suspicious moles.

healow is available via the web on all browsers and  on all mobile device operating systems so it’s where you are when you need it. Imagine how easy it would be to pull-up your child’s immunization records at school right when you need them rather than having to call the pediatrician, wait on hold and have them mailed to you. After booking an appointment with a new doctor, you can fill out the survey and health questionnaires ahead of time so you don’t have to arrive 15 minutes early just to fill out paperwork. The technology exists to make patients’ lives easier – it’s time we start taking advantage of these opportunities.

On the provider side, doctors don’t need to utilize eClinicalWorks’ EHR solutions to use healow- it’s an agnostic platform. Physicians can sign up for healow and share their calendar so patients can request appointments and fill up their schedules. healow validates each patient via phone before allowing them to request their first appointment, giving added peace of mind to physicians.

Aside from convenience, healow’s capabilities allow patients and doctors to engage with one another on a day-to-daybasis. This is especially important as a study from Kaiser Permanente and the Journal of Telemedicine found that engaged patients are 20% less likely to be admitted to the hospital and 20-57% less likely to be treated for chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, heart failure and depression. Your PHR shouldn’t just be the vitals and notes from your yearly visit to the doctor. That’s why patients using healow are able to upload blood pressure and glucose readings, even weight fluctuation, making it possible for patients and physicians to actively track vitals throughout the year. Even better, if you have a FitBit, which healow is fully integrated with, data from your wearable will automatically be uploaded to your PHR and shared with your doctor, if you allow it permission. By giving your physician a better informed idea of your activities throughout the year, it can dramatically improve recommendations and outcomes.

What’s the value in monitoring this information? When using a tool like Wingscale–an actual scale that monitors patients’ weight and alerts doctors via Bluetooth to any rapid gain or loss—with healow, physicians can know in real-time if patients taking heart medications are gaining or losing weight as this can be a sign the medication is not working properly. With Wingscale, doctors set parameters to flag any abnormal activity so they can reach out to their patients and catch a health emergency before it happens. Enabling doctors to track, consult and diagnose suspicious patient vitals without having to see them physically in the office is just the beginning of the improvements made possible by technology.

In terms of population health—patient engagement and wellness monitoring make it easier than ever for doctors to track health patterns within a community. As more people upload their health information via mobile apps (such as healow), the more data becomes available for doctors and public health professionals to analyze and determine health status indicators within a region. This could lead to innumerable benefits, including policy implementation for better health, an improved health system and an involved community of patients.

When eClinicalWorks surveyed doctors last July, the response was clear: 93% of physicians out of the 2,300 surveyed found value in having a mobile health app connected to an EHR. Doctors want to connect with their patients and patients want easy access to their doctors and health information. Now it is only a matter of informing doctors and patients of their options when it comes to choosing mobile solutions for health. While patient engagement, PHR access and population health all work together to improve the healthcare system, it’s technology that brings the patient experience to the next level.

Girish Navani is the CEO and Co-Founder of eClinicalWorks and will be joining Matthew Holt on stage at the 8th Annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference for the “Smarter Care Delivery: Amplifying the Patient Voice” panel on Monday, September 22nd. 

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