Novant makes the wearable connection

North Carolina system poised to connect to patients personal fitness data
By Bernie Monegain
11:00 AM
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Woman with wearable tech

Novant Health patients soon will be able to share data from their fitness tracker with their doctor through the health system's electronic patient portal, MyChart.

It is estimated more than 51 million new wearable fitness trackers have been purchased in 2014, Novant executives point out. By integrating with Fitbit and Apple HealthKit, Novant Health's more than 430,000 MyChart users will be able to submit data from personal fitness devices, such as smart scales and wearable fitness trackers, directly to their doctors.

Novant expects the connection will be up and working within a month.

MyChart is a portal offered by EHR vendor Epic Systems. Novant Health claims it leads the nation in patient engagement with MyChart, with 50 percent of registered MyChart users actively logging into the patient portal monthly. With the addition of the wearable technology integration, Novant expects its MyChart engagement to continue to climb.

"Fitness trackers can be excellent motivators and, as a physician, I'm very excited about any technology that helps to keep my patients engaged with their health," Keith E. Griffin, MD, chief medical information officer for the Novant Health medical group, said in a press statement. "By connecting MyChart with popular health tracking technology, we can give patients even more options for keeping their doctors up to date on their health between office visits."

MyChart is a free and secure tool that gives patients controlled access to the same Epic medical records their doctors use, via browser or mobile app.

Through MyChart, patients can view laboratory results, a summary of care, snapshots of their current medications and more. They can also email their doctors, request prescription refills and pay bills electronically.

Patients will be able to link to their accounts through the Track My Health feature in MyChart and then sync the data to both view it in MyChart and submit it to their clinicians.

While there hasn't been a large scale research study pointing to the outcomes and use of these types of devices to manage patients or improve outcomes, Griffin notes many physicians believe wearable devices are holding more people accountable when it comes to how much activity they get in a day.

As he sees it, "from a clinical perspective, getting a more accurate look at exercise, sleep and other health trends will be helpful as patients work together with their care teams to create holistic plans for their overall wellness."

The Novant Health network consists of more than 1,200 physicians and 25,000 employees at nearly 500 locations, including 14 medical centers and hundreds of outpatient facilities and physician clinics.