Patient Engagement

How Cedars Sinai & Dartmouth-Hitchcock are using wearable tech to improve patient experience

Providers should adopt wearable tech to improve the patient experience and their own efficiency, writes an executive from a health consultancy helping hospitals with their digital strategies.


wearable health sensors

As of 2015, one in six U.S. adults owns a smartwatch or fitness tracker. This means that there are 40 million people in this country counting steps, checking their heart rate, and tracking other data. The wearables market already represents a multibillion dollar industry.

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Fitness bands are just the beginning of human beings living a more measured life. And with the strong connection between wearable tech and healthcare, providers would be foolish to ignore this trend. Two example of hospitals that have already found a way to tap into the growing trend of wearables are Cedars-Sinai and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. And there are other benefits that providers can employ to improve the patient experience as we at Modea have learned in helping hospitals define and execute digital strategies.

Cedars-Sinai – Using Fitbit to Help Cancer Patients

Dr. Arvind Shinde, a faculty physician in the departments of Supportive Care Medicine and Hematology and Oncology at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, knows that activity level has a strong correlation to whether or not an oncology patient can physically make it through chemotherapy.

“People who are spending more time in bed usually get harmed by the treatment we give, even if the cancer is responsive to the treatment,” Dr. Shinde told MobiHealthNews.

He rolled out a test in January of this year across 30 adult cancer patients and provided each one with a Fitbit Charge HR device so that he could monitor stats like heart rate and miles walked. The goal is to assess patient activity levels over a fixed period of time, and then correlate that data with patients’ outcomes from cancer treatment.

“The next step will be to do a larger study across multiple tumor types and follow people longitudinally for a much longer period of time,” Dr. Shinde said, accordting to the article. “We can see how they do as they progress through their treatments, follow their ups and downs. We’ll be able to get changes over baseline and create a better algorithm for this assessment.” 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Rolls Out ImagineCare to Improve Sustainable Health

Dartmouth-Hithcock has rolled out a new platform — ImagineCare — allowing patients the ability to tap into a full network of health alerts and personalized support, as well as to voluntarily supply connected health data to their care providers. The platform incorporates use of the Microsoft Band activity tracker to measure and collect personal health data.

This video tells the full story.

By bringing together wearable tech, personalized support, and a new ImagineCare app, Dartmouth-Hitchcock is providing a holistic care platform that helps patients to manage chronic health issues and better provide self care.

Given the power of these consumer wearable technology, now the onus is on providers to integrate with that data

Integrating with Connected Health Data

As a healthcare provider there are many ways to get started integrating with wearable data. As a first step, I’d recommend exploring  Apple HealthKit. In 2014 Apple released the “Health” app for iOS. Now over 75 million iPhone users in the U.S. can track statistics like activity and heart rate, just by carrying their phone around in their pocket.

Later that year, Apple released “HealthKit”, an accompanying developer platform that allows software developers to hook their own apps into collected data on HealthKit via API.

Building into HealthKit would allow your practice to integrate personally connected data from about 100 million adults in the U.S. market. In addition, you can also consider tapping into data from other devices with developer platforms, such as the Fitbit or the Microsoft Band.

Regardless of how providers decide to get started, here are three benefits that they can realize by tapping into data from wearables.

Achieve Better Patient Outcomes

Can healthcare practices that encourage the use of wearables or (better yet) integrate with wearable tech to provide more holistic care actually provide a better patient experience? The answer lies within how using wearable tech can change patient engagement. Here’s what a recent HiMSS study said:

“Even without universal agreement on ‘one’ definition of patient engagement, two truths are emerging: a patient’s greater engagement in healthcare contributes to improved health outcomes, and information technologies can support engagement.”

By providing patients with the option to easily share personal health data, providers are not only helping doctors to be more informed, they’re increasing the value of connected data for the patient. And doing so increases patient engagement and empowerment.

Become More Efficient

Practices are under constant pressure to scale back and do more with less. Coupling mobile technology with wearable tech, physicians can connect live with a patient via video conference and scan data from activity trackers like the Apple Watch or Fitbit. They can even source data from “smart” household items like a scale or thermometer.

Companies like AmWell already provide in-home, fully digital care via web and mobile apps. The service also integrates with wearable data to ensure that doctors are making the best possible diagnosis.

Brand Perception

As patients become increasingly empowered to make their own care choices, their perception of your brand could become a deciding factor in whether they choose you as a provider (or not). 

“Consumers have more skin in the game now than ever before. They’re able to compare prices and outcomes for simple medical treatments,” said Paul H. Keckley, to the Wall Street Journal when he was Executive Director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “And they can access their own medical records to compare their signs, symptoms, risk factors, and comorbidities to clinical algorithms and better understand where to get the appropriate care, and how much that care will cost.”

Being seen as an early adopter of using connected health data from sources like Apple HealthKit can position your practice as the go-to place for the best, most progressive care.

The trend toward personal health measurement is not going away. Rather, it’s accelerating. Tapping into wearable data to improve the patient experience will help position providers and their practices for the future.

Photo Credit: Flickr user juhansonin 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story mistakenly said Paul Keckley is executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. He is no longer with Deloitte.